Ranelagh Street, Liverpool - Next to Central Station
Vergo Retail Ltd.
1856 - 2010

The Original Lewis's building, which was burnt down during the May bombing Blitz by the German Airforce in 1945

Lewis's Department Store was established in 1856, by a young business man David Lewis, who set out to create a Men and Boys Tailoring Shop, which would sell top quality ready-made goods, but was aimed at the working classes. The shop was only 24 ft long and consisted of a single entrance. David Lewis, believed in providing a quality relationship with the customer and his early slogan was "Lewis's are the Friends of the People". In 1864, the large woman population of the city made him reliase that a women's department would do well, and so a womans department was opened. He was very commited and in 1877, he visted Paris to see the Bon Marche (the worlds first department store) and so set about opening a simular store in Liverpool's Church Street. Lewis's Bon Marche was not just a store, but acted as an exhibtition space and being next to Lee's, was targeted at a different market than that of Lewis's. In 1879, David Lewis opened the world's first Christmas Grotto in his Bon Marche store. During this time he also opened branches in Manchester & Birmingham as well as expanding into Mail-Order, tobaccco, Food, Coal and many other departments. Being based in Liverpool, he was able to cut out wholesalers and buy straight of the shippers - making many luxury goods avalible to the working classes. It can be claimed that Lewis's made tea the national drink as his 2 shilling tea was cheaper than all other chains.

David Lewis, was keen on improving the life of Liverpools Working classes, and so he lauched his "penny readings" which encoraged citizens to learn to read and educated them. When he died, he donated his wealth to the people - lauching the David Lewis hospital, the David Lewis theatre, the David Lewis Centre for Epilitics and David Lewis Recreation Ground. He also believed thourghly in advertising and bought a ship - The Great Eastern - which he painted "Visit Lewis's in Ranelagh Street" and mentioned his products. He would sail it up and the Mersey, hoping to catch trade.

After David Lewis died in 1885, The store was passed on to the Cohen Family and with this they improved the group, taking it forward, adding new departments and ideas, the basement of one store was flooded and a "mini Venice" was created. They also brought in manniqeins, the first in the country, frightening passers-by and coining the phrase "standing around like one of the Lewis's". Lewis's grew and grew, through the war and in the 1930's the group expanded to Leeds, Hanley, Glasgow and Leicester. Some stores could now boast 132 departments, where everything could be purchased - from theatre tickets to exotic foods. The group expanded rapidly and it's large foodhall's were used like mad under rationing. In 1945, the Liverpool store was bombed and a temporary store was opened nearby. By 1951 a new elegant, portland stone, store opened complete with marble clad hallways and fluted columns. The building was over 500,000sq ft inside and had 4 passenger lifts complete with lift attendents. In 1953 the fesitival of Britian restaurants were opened on the 5th floor, including a large tiled listed murial. By 1956, Lewis's centerary came along, and to celebrate it, a statue was unveiled by Sir Jacob Epstien - the Liverpool Resurgent (Known as Dickie Lewis). The store also included an undergroud link to Liverpool Central Station(Still There) and the group had bought out Reece's Restaurants.

In 1951, the group purchased the famous London store - Selfridges. Which had many simularities with Lewis's. Sir Charles Clore, bought through his Sears chain, Lewis's group and lauched a young fashion department accross all the Lewis's stores - Miss Selfridge. By the 1970's, the store group faced more saturated competition in many locations and therefore it was decided that Lewis's could not compete on the same scale they were operating, they brought in concession brands and cut the sizes of the departments, making there stores more online with others. A New Lewis's was born and stores opened in Bolton, Newcastle and Lakeside in Thurrock. Stores which wernt doing so well, were sold off - such as the one in Bristol to John Lewis. In 1991 Lewis's went into adminstration.

Owen Owen, another operater bought out 5 Lewis's Stores, and turned them around, coming up with new ideas and selling stores which were not working to other operators. By 2000, they were left with two stores, Lewis's in Liverpool and Lewis's Manchester. The Manchester store was surrounded by roadworks and faced a loss, and unfortunatly closed. Liverpool's store was refurbished, an upturn was found, and so Jopling's and Robbs Stores were bought by Owen Owen. Unfortunatly, Liverpool's big dig sent owen owen into admistration, with the Lewis's store cut off from customers. It was saved in 2007, by Vergo Retail Ltd, who returned the store to it's former glory and bought more stores including derrys in Plymouth. Vergo brought in new ideas, such as a website and strives to give local brands pride of placement within it's stores.

Lewis's Department Store had hoped to be an integral part of the new Liverpool Central Village Development, the store was going to take about 100,000sq ft of revamped space within the building although the building work could not happen with the store. With no where to continue trading Lewis's finally finished trading in June 2010 when the doors shut on the 154 year old store for the final time.

Lewis's Grotto

When the store closed in June, the former grotto manager (Mike Done) of 27 years bought the famous Christmas Grotto off the Administrators. In an effort to find the grotto a new home, he moved it to the 4th Floor of Rapid (former George Henry Lee's). He has said he wishes to recreate the traditional department store grotto in Liverpool and in the process reunited the Lewis's Marketing and Display teams. The Lewis's grotto was opened in 1879 and is one of the oldest in the world as it is now called "Liverpool's Famous Magical Grotto at Rapid".

The first grotto in Rapid was themed around how Santa lost his home in Lewis's and how he would then find a new home at Rapid. The last one (in 2011) was the story of Alice in Wonderland set in Liverpool. The grotto never stays with a static theme and a grotto from the 1960's had Father Christmas "on the moon".

Website - http://www.lewissliverpool.co.uk/ Lewis's Home Website - http://www.benross.com/lewiss.htm