George Henry Lee

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George Henry Lee was a department store located in Liverpool, England and became part of the John Lewis group.

Early History[edit]

In 1853 George Henry Lee and his brother, Henry Boswell Lee Junior opened a Bonnet warehouse on Basnett Street. The brothers had learned their trade under their father, Henry Boswell Lee who was the owner of a famous Liverpool Silk business operating out of multiple sites in the city.[1] George and his brother grew the business quickly into a department store, becoming an exclusive shop with customers being lead to the departments they wanted to shop at by Shop Walkers. However the brothers business accumen was poor, so they employed an experienced buyer in Thomas Oakshott to manage their growing business from 1861.[2] Thomas would eventually take over as the business partner from Henry Boswell, and solely ran the business from 1874 after George's retirement.

In 1897 the business became incorporated and at the time of Thomas Oakshott's death in 1910, the Oakshott family were the sole owners of the business.[3] The business continued to run under the ownership of the Okashott family for another 9 years before they sold the store to American businessman Harry Gordon Selfridge. Under Selfridges management the store lost its exclusivity and took on the brashness associated with Selfridges London store.[4] In 1926 the store was incorporated into the new Selfridge Provincial Stores group, which it stayed until it's collapse in 1940 and subsequent purchase by John Lewis.

Under John Lewis[edit]

During the war years the store was affected less than other business in port towns due to Liverpool's location. The only major issue was the closure of the business' Cotton Exchange which had to be closed due to lack of materials, much to the disappointment of its customers.[5]

After the war, the business grew, first opening a new store in Chester in 1951 which specialised in the selling of furnishing fabrics and piece goods.[6] The business further grew in 1961, when John Lewis purchased the department store next door, Bon Marche from its owners the Liverpool Co-operative Society and merged it into George Henry Lee. Bon Marche had previously been formed in the late 19th century by David Lewis, of Lewis's but had been sold as a failing business in the 1950s to the Co-op.[7]

The store however declined, firstly with the Chester store closing in 1967 due to structural problems,[8] and the change in shipping practices that saw the loss of jobs in port. However, during the 1980s the business picked up with the new investment in the city and was known as a landmark of Liverpool. This all changed in 2002, when the partners decided as part of the store refurbishment the business would be re-branded under the John Lewis name.[9] So on 27 May 2002 George Henry Lee was no more, as the store was re-opened as John Lewis Liverpool.

The story did not stop there, as in 2008 John Lewis moved from the former GH Lee and Bon Marche stores into a new building located in South John Street in the Liverpool One development.[10] The building has been redeveloped with the ground floor hostings retailers Poundland, a Rapid Discount Outlet and TK Maxx, while there are plans to convert the upper levels into a 150-room hotel.[11]

References[edit]