Goldbergs

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For the radio and television comedy-drama, see The Goldbergs (broadcast series). For the 2013 situation comedy, see The Goldbergs (TV series). For other uses, see Goldberg.

A. Goldberg and Sons plc was a Scottish retail organisation which, prior to its demise in 1990, had grown from a single Glasgow store in 1908 to a chain of over 100 outlets.

At the Edinburgh store there was a cafe on the top floor with a roof garden.[1]

History[edit]

A. Goldberg & Sons was founded in 1908 by Abraham Goldberg, a Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe. After starting business on the South Side of Glasgow he moved to premises in Candleriggs in the 1920s.[2]

Abraham Goldberg, was Chairman from 1908 to 1934, when he handed power to his two sons, Ephraim and Michael. Together they brought the company to the stock market and saw the development of the business from the one department store in Glasgow to the building, by in-house contractors, of the Edinburgh department store and the beginnings of a small department store chain in central Scotland. From 1970 to 1974 stores were opened in Falkirk, Ayr, Paisley, Kirkcaldy, Motherwell, Dundee, Kilmarnock, Airdrie, Dunfermline, East Kilbride and Greenock, with an average salesfloor space of 7,500 sq ft (700 m2). These sold a range of family fashions, household goods and electrical items. They were scaled-down versions of the main Glasgow department store.

From 1974 onwards Mark Goldberg, grandson of Abraham, took the position of Chairman. At that time A. Goldberg & Sons was the only Scottish public company with a woman director. In the mid-1970s A. Goldberg & Sons became the first retailer in Europe to introduce a comprehensive electronic point of sale (EPoS) system (an IBM system that was in place until 1987). Until that time all sales transactions were recorded in day-books, an operation which involved having 500 bookkeepers. Not only was the process costly in terms of people employed, it also created large queues in the stores. But the company took its time in choosing its new system.

Goldbergs was a quoted company from 1938 and always had a member of the Goldberg family at its head.By the mid-1980s A. Goldberg & Sons was one of only three Scottish-based retailers still quoted on the Stock Exchange.

Innovations in EPoS[edit]

Goldbergs was the first retailer in Europe to introduce a comprehensive EPoS system, the system was supplied by IBM in the mid 1970s.[3]

A visit to the USA by some of the senior executives included discussions with Nat Solomon of the National Retailers Merchant Association. This visit was seen to be a critical one in that the company was seeking a survival strategy due to the increasing costs of the cash-taking system and declining profits.

Solomon's advice was to wait for IBM to develop a system. Other companies offering cash-taking equipment included Singer. However, Singer's system was an electro-mechanical one while IBM were developing a computerized one. IBM were instrumental in defining the needs of the A. Goldberg & Sons business and the successful installation enabled IBM to enter the European market. At a stroke the labour costs went down and queues in the stores disappeared, and it represented an innovative and opportunistic solution to a serious business problem.

Expansion[edit]

These changes signalled a move towards reassessing the business generally and in 1979 the company launched Wrygges, a chain of young fashion stores targeted at the 15–24 year old female. The late 1970s saw a one for three rights issue to fund this development, together with the expansion of the Goldberg department store chain with another three units (two in Scotland, and the first venture in England at Blackpool). Goldberg's also owned the Schuh, and Ted Baker chains.[4]

Lifestyle retailing[edit]

The choice of Blackpool at first sight seems a strange one. Company folklore had it that the seaside resort was chosen because of the influx of Glasgow and Edinburgh residents for their annual fortnight's holiday. Nevertheless, the company was again to show its innovative retail approach. Enlisting the help of consultants from the UK and Carol Farmer of the United States company, The Limited, a lifestyle approach to merchandising was adopted. Some of the segments identified were "young, sophisticated", "assured" and "reassured". Backed up by market research and consumer panels, the Blackpool store is believed by the author to be one of the first British attempts at lifestyle retailing.

The directors of the time were, however, disappointed with the Blackpool store. They are quoted in the Harvard case studies as saying that the new store did not meet the predicted sales volumes. One of the reasons articulated by a number of the seminar executives was that the use of generalist buying teams meant that the buyers did not have a focused approach to the segments identified. By 1981 the turnover from the stores was feeling the impact of the recession.

Stylecard[edit]

At this time, A. Goldberg & Sons had its own in-house credit arrangements for its customers based on three months credit, plus a 5 per cent discount if the bill was settled at the end of three months. This offering was transformed into the Style credit card which benefited from the large customer base and the new EPoS system. Style was launched at the beginning of 1982 and followed the lines of other credit cards with no interest incurred for prompt monthly payment. Otherwise, minimum monthly payments could be made over a period of time thereby incurring interest charges.

Apart from the development of Style, investment continued with the leasing of 61,000 sq ft (5,700 m2) of warehousing outside Glasgow to become a new central distribution depot. By 1984, the Stylecard was being used not only in the Goldberg stores, but in a range of other non-fashion outlets such as Kwik-Fit and the travel agents, A T Mays.

Stylecard was eventually taken over by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

Demise[edit]

Following a failed takeover bid by Blacks Leisure in 1989,[5] Goldbergs went into receivership and ceased trading in 1990 having suffered losses of £10 million.[6] The flagship Glasgow store on Candleriggs was acquired by entrepreneurs Vera and Gerald Weisfeld in 1994 and reopened as discount clothes store Weisfelds in a similar concept to their previous business What Everyone Wants.[7] However, this closed in 1999 and the site subsequently fell into dereliction. The building was partially demolished in 2002 following the collapse of an adjacent tenement due to unstable foundations. The site was acquired by Selfridges, but plans for the company to build its first Scottish store on the site were shelved in 2007.

After much pressure from Glasgow City Council, Selfridges began demolition of the former Goldbergs buildings in late 2013, with interim plans to turn the site into a landscaped area in preparation for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, although plans for the department store remain on hold. The proposals were formally abandoned in May 2014, when Selfridges sold the site to a private developer - it is now likely that private housing and more modest retail developments will be built on the Goldbergs site.

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