Looking back at old Bognor shops and forward to the new

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Are you going shopping at the weekend? Perhaps you are going to one of those out-of-town shopping complexes.

However, will they evoke the same type of memories in 25-50 years’ time? Do ‘Comet, Dixons, Leatherworld, Tesco and Homeworld’ conjure up the same sort of magic as those of the past traders in Bognor Regis?

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Let us take a stroll and have a nostalgic look back at some of our traders through the years. First let us remember D&M Wood. They were situated in London Road, next to the Odeon cinema, now a bingo hall. From 1928 until the 1980s, they sold drapery, general furnishing and clothing. A shop that appeared to always have a sale – that is, according to the recollections of customers.

Flannelette sheets were 5/- (25p) in 1938 and ladies’ raincoats were reduced to 10s/11d (60p) in the 1939 sales.

Another of our shops that always seems to spark such an interest was Edward H Isted, also in London Road.

This shop evokes its memories with its particular smell as soon as you entered. They sold vegetable seeds, broccoli, cabbage and an even wider range of other vegetables. Their seed potatoes covered a wide variety, such as Midlothian, Sharp’s Express, Sir John Llewellyn, Red King and others.

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Can anyone tell me where you could buy such a variety of seeds and plants today, and if indeed these types of potatoes are still available?

Where have I found this information? In their 1945 seed list. For you gardeners, you could apparently purchase 7lbs of Arran Banner for 1/-. I suppose I should really convert all of that to metric!

This simple catalogue provided all the information required, such as when and how to plant, when to transplant and how to water.

What about The House of Hawkes which was situated at 9 High Street from 1872 to 1970. A shop that sold groceries, wines, spirits etc. They also reminded customers that they sold ‘Empire provisions’, whatever they were!

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Interestingly they produced a magazine, price list and diary, which was issued ‘in the interest of good housekeeping’. This publication provided a list of all their provisions, including advertisements from their suppliers.

This particular issue also had articles on meals for ‘tiny tots’, first aid for children, picnic and party sandwiches. There was even a section called ‘Handy Andies of the kitchen’. And this is such a long time before the ‘Handy Andy’ of today’s television fame.

When looking through their prices, Bonio dog food cost 1s (5p), a tin of Heinz baked beans cost 3d, with a one-lb jar of jam costing 9d. Also the prices of spirits is interesting, with an average price of gin at 12s 6d, whisky for 13s 6d and brandy 16s 6d.

The one thing that strikes me about this publication is the similarity achieved by the large supermarkets today with their coloured magazines. However, the book produced by Hawkes did seem to me to be a more personal book for their customers!

Another advertising aid that was used by local traders was the postcard. My favourite card is that shown, which was sent by E&O Carter Needlework and Wool shop, who were situated at 51 High Street from 1925 until after the second world war.

It was sent to a customer to advise that her order for ‘Sylco’ had been received and was ready for collection.

Their advertisements informed their prospective customers that they sold bathing caps, costumes and waders for the summer. It was also felt important to mention that they had a fitting room, something we tend to take for granted today.

Another trader who used the postcard to great effect in the late 1920s and 30s, was HA Harnett, a butcher in London Road, near the library. Can you imagine the health authorities allowing meat to be sold in this manner today? However, would we want to buy it – complete with vehicle exhaust fumes.

It had been possible, for the eagle-eyed of you, to find the faded advertising slogans for these two shops on the sides of buildings today – but you had to look high.

As we look through the papers, books and magazines of the 1970s, 80s and 90s, the advertisements have changed into a very different style. They appear to have been produced for such more shorter periods, because of the ever-changing prices of goods.

Today there seems to be an urgency with advertising: ‘Sale now on’ or ‘Our prices are cheaper than our competitors’ – the current advertisements are much more immediate and do not necessarily reflect the personality or service of the local traders.

They have lost their individuality, their local appeal – this will make it much more difficult for the new breed of local historian who will be seeking information on ‘the way we were’.

Two main stores that were lost more recently are Woolworth’s and Littlewood’s, however these have now reappeared online.

Today’s television advertising is, of course, very immediate but is not necessarily the choice for the local trader who is desperately trying to combat our shopping style of moving to the out-of-town stores.

Advertising for the local trader is catered for today principally by the local press, with their weekly ‘special orders’ as each trader has to achieve a constant presence before the general public.

Today we do not have the range of books and magazines that once produced such interesting leaflets, magazines or booklets, which today allows us to sit and imagine what it must have been like in days gone by.

As I write this article, we have more shops leaving our town centres and new stores arriving such as Sports Direct, Bright House in the town centre and B&M, the newest out-of-town store to this part of the country.

I am sure that in the coming months and years we will see more ‘well-known’ names being lost and replaced. Therefore we should try to use and retain our favourite stores.

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