United Drapery Stores

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United Drapery Stores, or UDS, was a British retail group that dominated the British high street from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Early history[edit]

The group was founded in 1927 and from the outset sought to grow through the takeover of other companies. The company started with five department stores in the London area, but by 1931 this had grown to 112 retail outlets. In 1932 it acquired the business of Stewart's Clothiers Ltd, bringing its number of outlets to 232. A further thirty-seven shops were added to the business in 1950 when it took over the Scottish clothes chain Claude Alexander. In 1953 it saw its biggest expansion through the acquisition of Prices Tailors Limited, a Leeds multiple tailoring firm. Prices had been founded in 1907 by Henry Price, and traded under the Fifty Shilling Tailors brand, with 399 stores across the country. After the takeover by UDS, the chain was renamed John Collier.

Later acquisitions[edit]

In 1954 UDS acquired Alexandre Limited, a Leeds-based multiple tailor owned by Bernard and Jack Lyons and their families. [1] Bernard Lyons took control of the menswear operations and later became group Chairman and Chief Executive, while Jack moved to London and took on a variety of group roles. UDS continued the policy of expansion through acquisitions, with the twenty-seven shops of Brooks Brothers joining the group in 1963, and the forty-five stores of the Peter Pell clothing chain being taken over in 1964. It was reported that in 1966 alone UDS sold over 1,119,000 men's suits in Britain, making it one of the biggest clothing retailers in Britain at that time, rivalled only by the likes of Burtons and Hepworths.

A notable takeover by the UDS group came in 1958 when the then chairman Joseph Collier negotiated a takeover of the Allders department store in Croydon. Most other department stores in the UDS portfolio were rebranded Allders during the Lyons' leadership in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Final days[edit]

However, for the UDS menswear business the main rival was the Burton Group, today part of Arcadia Group, and there were several attempts by UDS to take over Burton's, most notably in 1967. This attempt was blocked by the British Government's Monopolies and Mergers Commission as being against the public interest.[2]

The Lyons family held only a minority share in UDS. In 1983 the group was acquired by Hanson Trust, and was largely broken up. Many of the stores that formed the core of UDS, including the once ubiquitous Richard Shops chain of women clothes retailers, ended up eventually being sold to Arcadia.


  1. ^ See Obituary: Jack Lyons, in The Independent (London newspaper), 20 February 2008.
  2. ^ Monopolies & Mergers Commission report Archived 25 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine.