London – RETAIL TRADERS – Haberdashers

This is the second part of our article on the early retail trade of London – the article is from the book London – Volume 3 published in 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery

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London – RETAIL TRADERS – Haberdashers

Of all the retail traders, the Haberdashers, though dealing in such small wares, seem to carry on business to the greatest extent. One single house in the city is known to take on an average, a million and a half sterling a year, or more than four thousand guineas a day; one half of this vast sum is received in cash for-goods sold at the counter, and the other, wholesale at a short credit. There are at least two other houses in the same business whose returns are £1000 a day.

The proprietor of one of these establishments, which is necessarily large on account of the business being almost wholly retail, always gives the  persons in his employment an extra allowance for supper when the receipts of the day amount to £1000: thus expressing his own gratitude, and rewarding and encouraging the exertions of those around him. Nor are haberdashers the only tradesmen who carry on extensive business, or amass large fortunes; there is Exeter Change, long celebrated for its cutlery and hardwares, etc. where the Prince of retail dealers, the eccentric Thomas Clark, amassed a million of money, and while he paid £7000 a year to government as income tax, spent only a shilling on his own dinner.

About ten or dozen years ago a number of establishments somewhat similar to Exeter Change, which is not confined to any one particular branch of trade, sprung up in London, to which the oriental term of Bazar was given, which literally means a market. Of these, only two remain; the Western Bazar, in Bond Street, and that of Mr. Trotter, in Soho-square. The latter is a very extensive and well regulated establishment. Several large rooms are fitted up with counters, drawer, shelves, etc. for the sale of almost every species of light articles, where between five and six hundred females attend and trade on their own account; in the various articles of domestic manufacture. The price paid is in proportion to the space occupied. The utmost care is taken that none but persons of the strictest moral character are admitted, and that they shall not be subject to any insult from the idle and dissolute loungers of the other sex.

Two other marts for retail trade have been formed, the Burlington Arcade, in Piccadilly, and the Royal Arcade, in Pall Mall; both are elegant architectural improvements but they are too recently established to enable us to speak decisively of their success.

The streets most celebrated for retail trade are Fleet Street, Ludgate Hill, St. Paul’s church-yard, Cheapside, the Poultry, and Cornhill, in the city; in the Strand, King Street, and Henrietta Street, Covent Garden; Cockspup Street, Pall Mall, St. James’s Street, Piccadilly, Oxford Street, and Bond Street, at the west end of the town. The recent improvements, in opening a communication from Carlton House to the Regent’s Park, has created a new and spacious street for retail business, called Regent Street; and the Regent’s-quadrant, which has on each side a grand colonade.

Excerpt from London Volume 3 1824 by Sholto and Reuben Percy – Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery


Further reading and external links

Cheapside and London Retail Trade in the 18th Century

Sholto and Reuben Percy