Kennards was a small department store chain that was started in 1853, founded on the principle of selling reliable goods at low profit margins. Its main Croydon branch was notable for the full-length windows which ran the length of the store. The shop was bought out by Debenhams in 1973 and demolished.
Kennards was started in 1853 by William Kennard for £100 in the North End of Croydon. The store within a year of opening had served 8,000 customers, which was attributed to the new railway stations that had opened in the area. Allders and Grants of Croydon were the competition.
In 1887, William Kennard died and the business was renamed Kennard Brothers and managed by his son's William & Arthur. At the start of the 20th Century the store expanded, taking over local rival Messrs Buckworth, and opening a second branch in Staines, which brought with it a new rival in Johnson & Clarks which was directly opposite.
Two of the unique selling points of the store was the use of full length windows running the length of the store, a unique feature at the time, and an arcade (added during the 1930s) inside the store that linked different departments and showcased goods from around the world.
In the 1920s the business grew again, with motor vans replacing the horse drawn delivery carts, and the store being rebuilt with a new entrance and a second floor being added. In 1928 a third floor was added. In 1926, Kennards was purchased by the Drapery Trust.
The store kept with the founders principle for selling reliable goods at very low profit margins, which along with aiming its goods at women meant that the store was popular with working class women.
The store was famous for many publicity stunts. However, after the war the business declined, and in 1973 Debenhams took over the store and rebranded it. The original Kennards store in Croydon has since been knocked down and replaced by a new Debenham store, while Debenhams are still located in the old Staines store.
This above is not correct, I worked in the carpet department in the summer of 1972. Kennards at that time was owned by Debenhams. The building had yet to be developed, the garratts where the staff used to live were still intact but used for storage
Kennards were one of the first UK business to use publicity to sell its goods. In the 1920s Kennards introduced Pony rides for children in store, which continued to run until 1966.
The success of this was followed by opening of a small zoo. This originally hosted some monkeys, a camel, a peacock, some birds and other small animals. This attracted lots of children with their parents, so they decided to expand the zoo further with more exotic animals. In 1930 two lions were introduced, along with a Hyena and a porcupine. Later these were joined by a temporary exhibition of cheetahs. During the mid thirties to bring even more publicity to the store the cheetahs were displayed in the store's restaurant. The zoo closed in 1939 with the outbreak of the Second World War.
The store was also famous for its Christmas grotto. A big procession through the town followed by the opening of the grotto with a big gold key took place. The grotto had a big display with Father Christmas workshop with real elves on display. One year Kennards claimed to have the largest Father Christmas in the world, 46 stone.
During the late 1940s a Planetarium was added to the arcade, along with an osteopathy massage parlour to entice customers into the store.
- Vivien Lovett (2000). Kennards of Croydon: The Store That Entertained to Sell. Vivien Whitehouse. ISBN 978-0953796809.
- "Francis Firth". FrancisFirth.com. Retrieved 24 April 2015.
- "Festive Midgets on Horseback - Croydon Guardian p.15 Dec 2004". Retrieved 11 January 2016.