150 Years of Elliotts

 

1873

The Start of a Long Journey

The story of Elliotts begins on April 15th 1873, when 29 year old George Elliott, a draper from Ringwood, married Miss Elizabeth Decent in Dover.

After a very brief honeymoon of four days, on 19th April 1873, George and Elizabeth opened the Lymington Clothing Mart at 87 High Street, Lymington.  The initial rent for the shop amounted to £7 per quarter and it was documented that the couples initial start up funds amounted to the not inconsiderable sum of precisely £225 in cash.

At a time when Norfolk jackets with big flowing knickers were considered the ultimate fashion, customers could purchase four suits for £15.

1890

Time to Move

George and Elizabeth proved extremely successful running their Lymington shop.

By 1890, with the business well established, it became necessary to leave Number 87 and purchase the much larger premises, across the road, at 44-46 High Street.

The new store sold hunting wear and derby tweeds, both made to measure on the premises and off the peg.

The property was substantially re-modelled and developed in the early 1900’s to provide not only much larger retailing space but also an extensive home for the family above the shop and a large garden to the rear.

1893

2nd Generation – Edward Joins the Family Business

The title George Elliott & Son was introduced in 1893 as 19-year old eldest son, Edward Charles Elliotts joined his father in the business at an annual salary of £25.

Sadly Elizabeth, who had played an important role assisting her husband during her twenty years in the business, died on 15th November 1893 at the age of 53.

Early 1900s

Marriage, Children and the outbreak of 1st World War

On 9th August 1904, Edward married Lilian Widdowson at St. Marys Parish Church in Leicester.  Edward and Lillian had two daughters, both born over the shop.  Katherine (Kitty) arrived in 1906, and Enid (Peggy) followed ten years later in 1916.

After the outbreak of the first world war in 1914, Edward received a wartime commission on 5th May 1915 and was later posted to India for the remainder of the conflict.  Such active service meant his 70 year old father George was the sole member of the Elliott family in charge of the business day-to-day affairs, until Edward returned at the end of the war.

The Roaring Twenties

Rapid Expansion

Following the declaration of peace in 1918, the business aimed to attract a high-class clientele, employing their own tailors and boot and shoe making and repairs became a major part of the business.  This was carried out in a workshop with a large window fronting Ashley Lane.

This trading strategy paid handsome dividends and the business rapidly expanded with branches opening in Brockenhurst, Lyndhurst, New Milton, Highcliffe and Freshwater on the Isle of Wight.

George Elliott, the founder died on 10th July 1928 at the age of 84.

1948

Starting Again

Following the death of elder sister ‘Kitty’ from Tuberculosis it was Peggy, who in December 1939 married Captain John Deighton, that took an active interest in the business.  This was very much against the wishes of her father, who held rigid Victorian views which forbade her, or indeed any other female, taking any interest in the family business.

However, it was to the family’s complete astonishment, that following Edward’s death in 1948, at the age of 74, his will directed that the company was to be disposed of and the residue funds to be shared equally between St. Thomas Church, the local Freemasons and the branch managers and employees.

Drastic action was required if the family was to save the business.  As such, Peggy used her considerable persuasive powers to secure a bank loan to repurchase the Lymington and Lyndhurst branches.  The new company became known as Elliotts and after approximately 20 years, the loan was repaid and the family once again owned their building and business.

1973

4th Generation enters the fray

By the 1970’s, John and Peggy’s two children had reached adulthood. Son Ian (born in 1947) spent a year in Mosbach, Germany, working in a shoe factory.  Following this, he joined the family business back in Lymington where he ran the men’s shoe department until, in 1974, he departed the business to pursue other opportunities.

Daughter Jenny (born in 1951) also visited Mosbach as part of an exchange visit to improve her knowledge of German.  It was here that she met Ulrich Welker, who she went on to marry in 1972.  Uli and Jenny initially made their home in Germany with Jenny working as a translator at the Blohm and Voss shipyard.   Uli meanwhile pursued a career as a sales representative with international road-tanker manufacturing company, Spitzer Silo GmbH.

Uli and Jenny did not initially envisage returning to Lymington or Elliotts.  However, in 1973, they received a telephone call from Peggy.  She explained how Jenny’s father, John was in deteriorating health and with Ian deciding to leave the business she felt unable to continue running the business for much longer.  Jenny showed initial doubts but Uli, having always wanted to live in England, eagerly insisted they accept the challenge.

1970s & 1980s

The German Revolution takes shape

Upon their return in October 1973, Uli immediately set off for London to undergo an English language course, then gaining experience with Simpson’s department store in London before spending 6 months working for Old and Co. in Westover Road, Bournemouth.  Jenny meanwhile found herself in at the deep end on the shop floor whilst obtaining a degree in shoe fitting with Clark’s Shoes in Somerset.

Uli and Jenny rejuvenated the business.  The Lyndhurst branch was sold and the couple set about transforming the Lymington premises, developing and utilising all three floors.  The underground coal cellar, plus several adjoining rooms of which the family had been unaware, were turned into the Menswear department.

Uli also decided to introduce Ladies Fashions on a grand scale, using his German connections to introduce a host of new ready to wear co-ordinated collection to Lymington and often the UK market for the very 1st time.  This included names including Basler, Betty Barclay, Gerry Weber, Michele and many others.

More space was added by opening up the 1st floor, leading to the opening of a 45 seat café.  By investing £10,000 in a coffee machine specially imported and installed from Germany, Uli was able to introduce Capuccino and Espresso to Lymington in the 1980’s with customers often queuing up outside the shop on a Saturday to sample this incredible coffee!

1990s

Further modernisation and designer brands

In the mid 1990’s a complete refurbishment of the Mens and Ladies departments was undertaken in an effort to once again modernise the store and keep up with emerging trends.

New flooring, lighting and shopfitting was introduced along with air conditioning throughout the store.  These newly refurbished departments housed some of the world’s leading designer brands including Max Mara, Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bally, Tommy Hilfiger, Gant and Giorgio Armani.

2000

5th Generation takes the helm

Uli and Jenny’s son, Neil, joined the business in 2000 following six months working for Men’s brand ‘Camel Collection’ in Germany as well as working for ‘Gant’ in London.

His wife Erin joined him in 2002, having previously managed well known Lymington chandlery Yachtmail.

Initially working alongside Uli and Jenny, Neil and Erin continued to develop the store adding new brands and ensuring the store, now trading from 9000 square feet of retail space and encompassing a staff of 20, kept fully up to date with modern retail trends which were constantly changing and evolving.

New technology was embraced with a website, social media presence, integrated stock control and EPOS systems as well as a loyalty programme for regular customers.

2020s

Evolving into the Future

Following the sad and untimely death of Uli in 2018, Neil and Erin undertook a complete review of the business to ensure it was ‘fit’ for the future.

It was decided that significant change would once again need to be embraced if the business was to continue to have a place in a retail landscape that was changing significantly.

Dedication to personal customer service and ensuring Elliotts remained a destination shopping experience was vital and more important than ever.  As such, they took the difficult but necessary decision to close the 1st floor retail space including the café in 2019, to concentrate on Mens and Ladies clothing and footwear on the ground and lower ground floors.

Embracing the company’s roots with a quality rather than quantity approach and the family providing outstanding personal service with a smaller but incredibly dedicated team of staff, many of whom have been with the company for decades.  Offering collections from brands and suppliers who are unique, often family owned and not found everywhere, Elliotts would continue its tradition of being a destination store at the heart of Lymington.

This decision proved decisive when in 2020 as a result of the governments response to the worldwide COVID pandemic, the store was forced to close its doors during the many months of lockdown.

Following the lockdowns, Elliotts and Lymington bounced back stronger than ever with its many loyal customers embracing its personal service and unique offering.  During the lockdown period, the website was overhauled as well as ensuring the business embraced social media and online marketing and communication.  This has continued since and new trading hours have been established with the store now opening from Tuesday to Saturday.

In 2022, a significant refurbishment of the building was started with the upper floors being completely transformed to provide new office and stockroom space alongside a dedicated personal shopping area.

Neil and Erin’s young sons, Euan (born 2009) and Jack (born 2012), both go to school locally and continue the family tradition at Elliotts by helping on the shopfloor at weekends and during school holidays.

Thus continues a family business that started 150 years ago, back in 1873 and that will hopefully remain for many years to come, offering a truly unique store in the heart of Lymington.