Sears Plc - History


The business was founded by John and William Sears in 1891 and initially traded as bootmakers under the name of Trueform. It had acquired Freeman, Hardy and Willis by 1929. The business was acquired by Charles Clore in 1953. He renamed it Sears Holdings in 1955 and it went on to buy the Manfield and Dolcis shoe shop chains in 1956. In the late 1950s Clore consolidated all the shoe brands Sears had acquired under the name British Shoe Corporation under which name it also bought Saxone, Lilley & Skinner, another shoe shop chain, in 1962.

Sears decided to invest in department stores in 1965 acquiring Lewis's Investment Trust which itself controlled Selfridges. In 1966, Selfridges launched the Miss Selfridge department, which subsequently expanded to a store chain in its own right.

In 1971 the company diversified again buying William Hill, a chain of bookmakers.

The company bought Wallis in 1980 and Foster Brothers Clothing, which owned Adams Childrenswear, in 1985. and in the same year was renamed Sears plc. It acquired Richard Shops in 1992.

As at April 2005, the company was FTSE 100 listed and had the following brands:

Wallis, Warehouse, Miss Selfridge, Adams Childrenswear, Shoe Express, Shoe City, Saxone, Dolcis, Cable & Co, The Outfit, Lilley & Skinner, Freemans Catalogue Store, Selfridges, The Selfridges Hotel, Part ownership of The StEnoch's Shopping Centre in Glasgow, 3,000 retail shops being mostly leasehold with a few freehold jewels such as 190 Oxford Street and 330 Oxfors Street known as the Top Shop flagship store.

In 1996 the company sold most of its shoe shops to Stylo plc.

Sears plc was acquired by January Investments on behalf of Philip Green in January 1999. The womenswear business (comprising Warehouse, Richards, Wallis and Miss Selfridge) was subsequently transferred to Arcadia Group. Philip Green later purchased the Arcadia Group, regaining control of Wallis and Miss Selfridge alongside Arcadia's other brands (Arcadia having closed Richards, and sold Warehouse to Rubicon Retail).

Sears Group Properties a wholly owned subsidiary was sold to the owner of Owen Owen department store and continues to operate as an outsouced property solution for other fashion brands.

Sears Property Developments Limited a wholly owned subsidiary of Sears Plc was swallowed up by January Investments but the asset stripping of the retail park development properties generated around £50M. These included Parc Fforestfach and Westway Cross Retail Park. Sears Property Developments Limited had contributed in excess of £10M per annum profits and was Sears "secret weapon." The Times had exaggerated Sears PLC as being involved in "risky property development" which it was certainly not.

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