This article was first published on LinkedIn 1st December 2020.
It is sad to hear the news today that Arcadia, Phillip Green's 'empire' is in the hands of the receivers.
Incredibly the TopShop brand's history dates back to 1964! Astonishingly, when digging a little deeper, its roots span more than a century! Its humble beginnings had a focus on menswear and tailoring.
It was a Lithuanian Jewish refugee; Meshe David Osinsky, who opened a draper's shop in Chesterfield at the age of 15, in 1900. He had just £100 when he arrived in the UK! He later called himself Montague Burton and did extremely well out of the first and second world wars supplying uniforms to the armed forces. He expanded into womenswear by acquiring the Peter Robinson's fashion chain. Apparently when he died in 1952, there were 600 shops and 14 factories, all - I believe in the UK! There was an amazing oral history project I came across Leedsonline, the City talking (back in 2012 when a student), where interviewees were describing the massive crowds turning out of the factories, and not being able to walk out of the front gate. This man was deservedly knighted for his 'services to industrial relations' and charity in the 1950s. He was widely recognised as a philanthropist for his commitment to his workers at his Hudson Road factory where they had access to a canteen, free health services and a pension! Remember those. What a Top Man!
Sadly, it's not new news that since popularity has grown for online shopping there would be casualties on the high street. Unfortuately COVID will have undoubtedly also played its part. However, what probably won't get much air time on mainstream media is the shift in consumer behaviour towards buying British and making more sustainable choices. It's a shame Arcadia is sinking, it's even more concerning for those working for the global 'empire', which in 2012 spanned 55 countries. This is very sadly going to effect thousands of hardworking conscientious employees. If you're one of them, I wish you all the luck in the world.