1900 - 1920

This was a period of great change: Marks & Spencer bought up a number of our competitors, as well as becoming a public company. The original founders both died, and a legal battle ended with Simon Marks eventually regaining control of the company from Tom Spencer’s executor.

In 1901, Marks & Spencer built a warehouse at Derby Street, Manchester. It was the first property built to our specifications and became the Company’s first registered address and headquarters. It was ready for a period of growth that led to us having 145 stores by 1915.

derby-st-warehouse_-manches (ID 1388)

M&S Warehouse, Derby Street, Manchester (1901-1924)

Improving living conditions and rising incomes meant that people were able to buy more of the things they needed from emerging department stores and co-ops. Marks & Spencer catered to this with open displays, browsing and self-selection. Our early stores offered shopping that was cheap, simple and friendly. We sold biscuits, mending wools, pins, combs, needles, socks – and in the days before TV or radio – sheet music.

Monster pins  Hair wavers

The penny pricing continued with great appeal until the First World War, when goods became expensive and hard to get. This changed the way Marks & Spencer worked for good.
Haberdashery items like these hooks and eyes were very popular with customers and the Archive holds many examples

A typical example of smartly-dressed female sales staff in our early stores, who would be supervised by the store manageress.

Marks and Spencer has sold innovative products from its earliest days!

Soon M&S shops opened in a wide variety of central sites, like this one at Castle Street Bristol in 1907.

We sold music from 1900 to 1920. It was so popular that people posted their penny to the stores, who sent the music out at no extra cost.

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Helen , Mersey side
Wednesday 19 April
I still use a Monster Music Book of Christmas Carols. Well worth an old penny.
Elise oliver, Doncaster
Tuesday 1 October
Clever marketing skills selling needle and thread to update people old clothes in the first world war.