A FAMILY BUSINESS - SUTERS LIMITED - 1960s by Richard Ensor
Please note that if click on some of the images on this page they will enlarge
18th and 19th March 1960 when Royal Air Force, Uxbridge were presented with freedom of entry to the Borough. Arthur Suter was at the centre of the ceremonies as Mayor of Uxbridge.
On the Saturday when the freedom scroll was presented, Arthur can be seen inspecting the parade and delivering the illuminated scroll to the Station Commander.
The scroll was paraded in front of the Parade which then formed up and marched through the Borough.
There is a photo of the RAF Band passing the Suters Uxbridge store and another of Arthur preparing to take the salute in front of the Civic Centre at the other end of the High Street. See also Arthur Suter page
REBUILDING AT SLOUGH
The rebuilding of the Suters store at Slough began in 1959, and, after a visit with her mother on the 1st March, Wendy-Ann Ensor told Richard Ensor in a letter that they received "a conducted tour of the new buildings and its really magnificent". The rebuilding started at the rear behind the existing building and progressed in stages. On the 16th September 1960 the company and its suppliers paid for a special 40th Anniversary Supplement in one of the Slough local papers and included a description of the progress to that date:
The new store was to be ready by 1962 and the Anniversary Supplement included an artists impression of the new building as it would be seen by customers entering from the High Street.
The frontage of the new store will provide 800 ft of window display space. The back will open on to a roomy car park with access to Wellington Street.
Down one side will run a covered arcade joining the High Street and the car park. It will provide more window displays and will be brilliantly lit at night.
The building will have four floors, one of them below ground and probably containing domestic merchandise. Much of the gravel subsoil has already been scooped out and behind the present frontage a sturdy tracery of girders is rising beside the tunnel which links the old store with the first phase of the new.
On entering from the High Street customers will find themselves in a vast open-plan department with lifts on the extreme left and in the centre a double escalator - the first in any Slough store - leading to the sections above. These will probably contain fashions, clothing, household linens and carpets.
On the top floor at the back looking over the car park to the trees fringing the far side of Wellington Street there will be a restful modern restaurant with seating for 100 people - a feature badly needed in Slough.
All this extra room will make possible a great extension in the services which the store provides. The staff will be roughly doubled and the management hope to engage many school leavers for this purpose, thus strengthening the ties which for the past 40 years have bound Suters to the growing community in Slough and the districts round about.
……A sevenfold multiplication of the floor area will make shopping pleasanter, quicker and more varied. There will be more scope for self-selection by customers with the guidance and assistance of the staff. - from the 40th Anniversary Supplement
An artists impression of the new frontage was set beside a photo of the existing shop fronts (above left) and there were features about some of the departments and plenty of advertisements.
This new Suters of Slough store would have a large car park made up from the land at the rear that was an orchard and garden with an entrance in Wellington Street. There would be a garage for four vans and a two storey building accommodating a spacious soft furnishing workshop.
FINANCE FOR THE NEW STORE
The new development at Slough was financed by a sale to the Coal Board Pension Fund of a long leasehold interest in the land and a lease-back to the company at a commercial rent. A note of the main terms survives on a sheet of Suters removal department letter head which seems to have been written by an adviser.
2. Purchase will be subject to a granting back to us of an under-lease for the full term with rent review clauses at the 35th and 70th years at a rent of £23,870. This figure is based upon a yield of 6¾% after deducting for the purchase costs & amortisation and is the terms that were originally granted to them.
This figure would be exclusive of your own legal fees and our agency commission for which we should be responsible.
3. Arranged for the C.B. to provide the Finance: Phase 1 £117,000 Phase 2 £ 90,000 Phase 3 £ 70,000 £286,000 + £40,000 = £325,000
2½ years to build - monies advanced by C.B. as "building finance" would be charged 8% - which means paying 10% for finance as the work proceeds.
Early decision sought.
Now being submitted to the Committee on the understanding that we agree to the figures & they have been advised that we are recommend to proceed on this basis & we must await final decision.
Subject to contract.
The note confirms that construction was to be in three phases and the article in the 40th Anniversary Supplement implies that Phase 1 was the rear section, which was already in use at the time of the article and, indeed when Wendy-Ann and her mother visited in March 1960. Phase 2 was the centre section including the basement area and the entrance and frontage would be in Phase 3. The new store was completed by 1962.
By the Autumn, the rebuilding of the Slough store was almost complete and the formal opening ceremony was scheduled for the late summer of 1962. The new store included a boardroom and offices which would take up many of the departments related to management previously at Uxbridge.
The directors wished to preserve the company as a family business and, with a view to continuity, arrangements were made regulating the admission of younger family directors and protecting the incomes of older directors who were approaching retirement age. A new set of Memorandum and Articles were adopted in November 1961 and also a formula governing the salaries of new family entrants.
By Article of Association 9 the number of Directors was fixed at not less than 3 and not more than 7. This allowed for the 7 then existing Directors - the four sons of George William Suter plus the three members of the next generation - Thomas William Suter, Anthony Frank Suter and David Clarence Suter appointed as Directors in 1956 and 1958. As and when further family members were admitted a Resolution in General Meeting would be needed. In 1961 both Clarence Suter's sons were Directors together with one of Frank's. Arthur Suter's son, George, was a farmer and not interested in entering the business. However, Frank Suter had two more sons who might wish to join the Company and John Suter had three.
Article of Association 10 appointed the four sons of George William Suter "permanent" Directors for life and by Article of Association 11 Clarence Suter was to be Chairman of the company so long as he remained a director (i.e. for life) and thereafter the Chairmanship was to pass first to Arthur Suter and then to Frank Suter and finally to John Suter. Directors remuneration would be fixed by the Company in General Meeting.
Articles 9 to 11 ensured that the four brothers had jobs for life assuming always that the Company continued as the kind of family business which had grown and prospered during the previous 41 years of its existence.
It was assumed that younger male members of the family would wish to join the Company. The informal understanding within the family was that new entrants started at 25 which allowed time for them, first, to gain some useful experience outside the Company and, once they were at Suters, they could expect to be considered for election to the Board within two or three years. A "Notice of Motion" dealt with salaries:
It was resolved that members of the family entering the service of the Company should receive a salary based on the Index of Retail Prices at the time of their entry, equivalent to the first entrant in 1953 of £750 per annum. The yearly increases to be proportionate to the increase granted to the original entrant in 1953.
John Suter obtained a statement from the Uxbridge Employment Exchange confirming that the Index of Retail Prices had stood at "138" in January 1953 and "153" in January 1956 when a new index was introduced at point "100". By August 1961 the new index had advanced to "116". On the basis of these figures if a member of the family had been joining the Company in August 1961 a salary of just under £964 would have been paid.. This compared reasonably well with the £1,250
THE NEW SUTERS STORE - 1962
In January 1959 the Suters company started to rebuild the Slough store and during the next three and a half years the work to the store progressed while it remained open for business. Progressively during 1960 and 1961 parts of the new building were brought into use and, in March 1961, Richard Ensor was able to take a party of his Cambridge friends to look round and be impressed. By the end of the summer of 1962 work was complete and the official opening was scheduled for October. In the meantime store guides were prepared and on Friday the 28th September The Windsor Slough and Eton Express published a series of articles describing the new 'Slough Dream Store' under the headline "From The Old ….. To the Super Modern".
The Slough Express started with some Suters history:
It was in 1920 that the Suters family acquired their High Street store and at that time it belonged to Andrews and Son, drapers and silk mercers. In 1927 Blanchetts Music Shop was bought and incorporated, and in 1939, Hopkins and Sons' business, adjoining the building was the men's and footwear departments. The directors were still thinking of expansion when World War II came, and put an end to their ideas for a while. Then, in 1946, they settled down again, and in 1949 with the population of Slough growing sp rapidly, the need for a bigger and better Suters became acute.
It took a clear ten years of negotiation and planning before work could begin on this enormous venture, but it was in 1959 that the workmen moved in. They have been working since then, non-stop, but few customers have been hampered by their presence …. in fact, the service at Suters during these three years has been as efficient as ever.
This then, is the birth of a building. Now it will grow and grow, but the startling thing is that it has already matured. It has been a keynote of the Slough High Street for 42 years now, and much has happened since the Suter and Son shop was opened in 1920 - particularly on the 70,000 square feet between High Street and Wellington Street - and much will happen in the next 42 years, no doubt.
Suters splendid store - a dream for so many years - is reality at last. For several weeks customers have felt the atmosphere of a West End departmental store, but workmen on one floor or another have been a constant reminder that a metamorphosis was taking place. But now the change is complete. The store, once family drapers, is a departmental store in its own right. When you walk into the new Suters, you will walk on marble; you will ride on the most modern escalators; you will eat in a new atmosphere. You will find new and interesting merchandise spread over four floors.
This has cost the Suter family £250,000. And, in turn, it was made possible because the directors have been able to plough back into the business profits which otherwise would have been disbursed among shareholders for the firm is a private limited company.
The frontage provides 800 sq ft of window display space, the back opens out on to a roomy car park, with access to Wellington Street. Inside is a vast open plan department with lifts on the extreme left to all floors, and in the centre a double escalator, the first in any Slough store.
Several years of planning have gone into this building, and the rebuilding was implemented over three phases by the architects, Mr W David Hartley and Mr Alan Travis in order to continue business throughout the operation.
The gigantic escalators - four sections each 52 ft long - moved into the store some months ago, but were not in use until this week. They were the main "headache" and they had to come by night.
Traffic was held up while huge trailers carried each section to the store on four consecutive visits - all at midnight. At first the driver had trouble shunting into the rear of the building, he had a margin of five inches between his vehicle and the stone [illegible].at the back door. At the first trip it took him half an hour to gain successful entry. Each visit was easier, and at the last visit he was through the doors in five minutes flat.
Slough Express readers were provided with a guide to the new store starting on the second floor:
Visit the Tirol Restaurant on the second floor. You will be enchanted with the waitresses who serve you dressed in the traditional Austrian dress of full black skirts, white blouses and white silk stockings. They serve morning coffee, lunch and afternoon tea.
Try one of the Continental specialities from the a la carte menu for something that tastes of the sun soaked Cote d'Azur, or a traditional English dish cooked with delicacy and expertise.
Monsieur Louvois who is married, served with the French Underground Movement during the last war and came to Britain soon after the war ended.
The continental flavour extends in the Salon Bruno the newly equipped ladies hairdressing salon, which has three qualified hair stylists, two juniors and a manicurist-receptionist and Monsieur Bruno himself to attend to you.Mr Bruno, a Swiss, is 24 years old and married with two children. He brings with him the latest Swiss hair-styles and all the Continental favourites.
Sole Mio, the blanket which spoils you for the others , candlewick bedspreads, sheets by Horrocks …. see them on the ground [sic second] floor. Homes in Slough are going to be among the brightest and gayest in Britain if they are furnished from Suters Courtelle blankets, Terylene quilts, Christy towelling.
Incidentally, furniture whether "custom built" or "off the peg" is a Suters speciality. The store can furnish a dining room from the table mats to the refrigerated cocktail cabinet.
Sanderson fabrics satisfy …….they have satisfied Suters' buyers for many a year, and the fabrics are satisfying to the band of machinists who are employed by the firm. They have a workshop at the back of the store, overlooking the car park, and a dozen girls make curtains, loose covers, fitted bedspreads to a customer's specification. The girls have been responsible for the furnishings in many a director's office on the trading estate, and not long ago they completed the entire furnishing for the Bell's Abestos [sic?] Group in their delightful offices at Stoke Green.
If we turn and step on the escalator going down through the building we will come to the first floor and a world of fashion at our feet. The immediate left is reserved for the younger smarter women ….its not just teens and matrons at Suters.
They haven't forgotten their staunch customers, the ladies that have shopped at Suters for years, confident that they will find elegance with ease, and comfort too. The well-laid out fashion floor caters for this group of ladies at one corner, another is reserved for the Junior Miss (teenager can be a frightening term) and the "young marrieds" ….or the career girl of the same age group finds an array of glossy magazine ideas from which to choose.
The Maid Marion of the 1960's would delight any female in the range of 13-40. It is a Waddington styled suede slip-over jacket, fringed for interest at the hip-line, and comes in the colours, teak, maple leaf and cane. A mere seven guineas.
You would love a Wolsey "Lombardi" three-piece suit in all wool double jersey jacquard with a plain contrast blouse and narrow tie belt …. We suggest she browses through the enormous selection of jersey wools, as she picks and chooses her was around this floor.
Suit we were enchanted by was the Emcar "Hood Winker" [shown on left] the weather cheating suit with the snug all-in one hood and jacket, so right for Saturday afternoon on the touchline. It's yours for £6.9s.6d. and you have a choice of colours in this pure wool Shetland tweed, Chelsea Red, Oxford blue, maple, pin green, coral or cocoa.
Windsmoor have a wide selection of coats, including the lightweight alpaca in a luxurious Cornish cream. [shown on right] This, priced at 16½ guineas would take you to any evening engagement ….even the theatre.
What about a three piece ensemble as we used to know them, before the days of the Jersey wool market? Dareta lends that nostalgia in the surprisingly modern styled coat and suit in brown and white tweed that is yours for 29 guineas. Nice thing about this snug set, is the size range, and it is for anyone from size 12 to 18.
David Gibson has found the answer to a busy girl's plight. He has produced a neat dress and jacket, married by a slot through belt, in double knit jersey tweed, that will take her through a day at the office, to a super-engagement, with a mere wash and brush-up in between. Just 13½ guineas.
Having absorbed the fashion departments on the first floor the shopper is taken to the ground floor and the "Smoker's Shop" just inside the front entrance.
The Smoker's Shop, carrying stocks of all the well-known cigarettes, pipes, tobaccos and a wide selection of cigarette lighters, is just the place for those last minute birthday and Christmas presents. As we pass the lift doors, one of the lifts is descending, and when it reaches ground level we step in and are taken to the lower ground floor. As the doors slide open we see another famous name on display - Daks. Here in their men's clothing department Suters are carrying the entire range of Daks clothing. Well-cut jackets from ten guineas, with the latest trousers from £6.10s. Here the foibles of masculine taste are well catered for.
Pockets straight or raked? To turn up or not to turn up? Two, three or four jacket buttons? Side or back vents? You name your preference. DAKS will supply it. Their suits famous for their fit and wearing qualities are, we are pleased to discover, priced from 17 guineas.
Turning from men's wear we find a junior echo of quality and value in the boy's outfitting department. The Italian influence has reached the junior man in the family and a smart Italian-cut suit for a 13 year old sells at seven guineas.
More conventionally British is the metropolitan young man's suit in charcoal grey with a fine stripe. This sells for £6.15s.
Beyond the stairs on the lower ground floor is the shoe department, and here again, Suters cater for all tastes from the contemporary to the traditional and the quality is backed by the famous brand names once more. Norvic and John White being but two od the names which stand out. - from The Windsor Slough and Eton Express, 28th September 1962
The lower ground floor, also, contained departments for travel goods and china and glass both of which were featured in the "Store-gazing" guide.
The headline "Start your Store Gazing in Suters" and the photo of the ladies fashion department on the first floor is shown here together with the photo of the boys outfitting department on the lower ground floor.
The new Slough store was formally opened on the 4th October by the actor Robert Beatty. The press report of the opening shows the actor with the Suters Chairman, Clarence Suter and Dick Suter who had joined the company a few months earlier and had taken the major part in the design of the publicity materials and had written the text.
The store opening was covered extensively in the local press and, on the 5th October, the Express included the photo of Robert Beatty, Clarence Suter and Richard (Dick) Suter shown above under the headline "Actor Opens New Srore".
A drivers from Suters ollected Robert Beatty in Clarence Suter's Daimler and Dick Suter was driven in John Suter's Mark 2 Jaguar t a a location just outside Slough to join him in the car for the final part of the journey for a briefing on the days events.
The Slough Observer also reported the opening on the 5th October with a different photo of Robert Beatty this time admiring some socks underneath the lamp-post in the men's department and the watchful eye of the Chairman, Clarence Suter! The Observer report of the opening quoted Robert Beatty as saying:
"I assure you that I will be coming down to shop here. I've had enough of shops in Knightsbridge where the personal attention is nil."
He said that Suters had created a great reputation for personal attention.
Mr Beatty was taken on a tour of the building where he bought several articles, including toys and schoolwear.
The opening ceremony was attended by 400 people who packed the first floor show room to overflowing. In his introductory speech company chairman Mr Clarence Suter had a word of praise for Slough Council. People were drawn to shop in Slough by the beautiful flower gardens at either end of the town, and by parking facilities. "Slough Council must be congratulated on what they have done. It is really a fine effort" he said.
Replying the Mayor, Alderman. Sid Room said: I am sure Slough is very pleased with all the facilities your store is offering us, especially the restaurant. We have been very badly placed for restaurants for a long, long time.
The Mayor and Mayoress were among the 74 guests entertained to lunch in the "Tyrolean" restaurant. Others includes the architects, Mr Davis Hartley, with Mrs Hartley, builder Mr E.R. Bowyer and Mrs Bowyer and Mr Eric Stow, chairman of the retail section of the Chamber of Commerce with Mrs Stow.
Three performances of a fashion show were staged yesterday and there will be three more today. It included corsetry, underwear, sporting, casual, day and evening wear. - Slough Observer Friday 5th October 1962
The Bucks Free Press carried a full page on the 28th September including reports, photos and nine advertisements.
The Buckinghamshire Advertiser carried a full page of reports on the 27th September under the headline "Spend a day shopping in Slough's most modern store" plus photos and eight Suters advertisements.
Left Suters of Slough from Elliman factory site See "An Approach to Renewal in Slough"
Wendy-Ann Ensor's brother, Dick Suter, gave her a copy of the latest Suters "Spring Store-gazing" guide before she attended the fashion show arranged at the Slough store the following evening. Suters had increased the floor area at Slough from 7,000 square feet selling mainly drapery and men's wear to nearly 45,000 square feet with 15 departmental buyers. By the summer, turnover had already increased by between 80% and 120% but continued expansion was needed to cover increased costs and yield a reasonable profit.
Dick had arranged for "Store-gazing" brochures at the time of the official opening in October 1962 and the theme was continued with "Spring Store-gazing" and evening fashion shows in the more spacious surroundings of the new building.
Dick arranged several spring fashion shows A reporter and photographer from the Slough Observer was also present and Wendy-Ann, Richard and Bobbie Suter can be seen sitting in the front row between Dorothy Suter and Maureen and Cheryl Williams.
LOOKING FOR NEW CUSTOMERS
The Urwick Orr & Partners report to Suters in July recommended marketing measures intended to widen the "catchment area" of both the Slough and Uxbridge Suters stores. Dick Suter needed little prompting and arranged a series of monthly advertisements in Vogue during the remainder of 1963 and early 1964.
Dick Suter, also, prepared a range of brochures of which Spring 1963 was shown above. While the survive brochures are not dated, there is an attractive 14 page Autumn "Store-gazing" prepared for Slough which features men's and women's fashions plus two pages of items for the home and two more of beauty products, the restaurant and hairdressing salon.
Dick also prepared smaller format "Store-gazing" for both Slough and Uxbridge - the content being identical except that in the case of Uxbridge a lingerie page is substituted for the Slough page publicising the restaurant and hairdressing salon.
The small brochures illustrated gift items and children's toys. Christmas stockings could be made to bulge with a Triang Mark X Jaguar for £13.17.6 or a Scalexttric motor racing set for £3.19.11 to £9.19.6.
Older children looking for something to give their hardworking fathers might be encouraged to choose a set of Old Spice toiletries for 59/6 or a nice leather briefcase for £5.12.6
Below: David Suter, his father Clarence Suter, Peter Bradford Accountant and Company Secretary and John Suter in the the boardroom at Slough in the early 1960s
Detail from images (Click to enlarge)
A sixty seven year old widow, sister of Mr Clarence Suter, chairman of the big Slough departmental store, was killed in s mystery gas explosion which wrecked a bungalow in Harkness road Burnham on Wednesday.
Two women next door, Miss Nancy Wilson and Miss Elsie Robson were treated for cuts and shock. Yesterday police fire chiefs and Gas Board officials were still puzzling out the cause of the blast for all taps on the gas cooker of the bungalow in Harkness Road where Mrs Winifred Moon lived alone were turned off. There appeared to be no other gas appliance.
Most neighbours in the quiet cul-de-sac were watching a thriller on TV when the explosion rocked the bungalow at 9.30 p.m. Some said it was followed by a second blast. They rushed out to find flames leaping from the roof of Mrs Moon's home. One gable was blown completely out. Windows were smashed and curtains ripped. Mrs Janet Hutton of No 14 said: "It was a terrifying bang - just as if a bomb had dropped. Glass was blown all over the road and the roof was well on fire. The whole street ran out. Then most of us rushed to turn off the gas just in case the fire spread."
Mr John Gardner of 141 Lent Rise Road, the Lent Rise garage proprietor, dashed over and joined Mr Arthur Bond of Dairy Farm Eton Wick, who was visiting a daughter Mrs Pauline Whitfield of 5 Harkness Road, to see what could be done. Mr Gardner said: "I went inside and found Mrs Moon lying in the hall. She seemed to be dead already. In the kitchen a brown cupboard was enveloped in flames and there was a huge fire in the roof. I clambered into the roof and tried to damp down the flames with wool fibre. I thought I had it under control, then flames shot right across the roof. A wardrobe in the bedroom was blazing and I got a bit singed and dizzy with the fumes. Gas was escaping from somewhere and the taps on the cooker were all turned off."
With neighbours, Mr Gardner had earlier helped carry Mrs Moon's body onto the pavement. The fire brigade and ambulance were quickly on the scene and the blaze was soon under control. Gas Board officials inspected the bungalow yesterday to try and discover the cause of the explosion.
"We are investigating - that is all I can say". One said. One theory is that Mrs Moon was overcome by escaping gas and died before the explosion. Mrs Moon, widow of a banker, Mr Norman Moon who died two years ago, lived at Elizabeth House, Dawes East Road, Burnham for many years. She had recently moved to Harkness Road where neighbours said she had spent large sums on redecoration and landscape gardening.
Mrs Moon was a sister of Mr Clarence, Mr Arthur, Mr Frank and Mr John Suter of the Slough store. She leaves two married daughters, Mrs Elizabeth Wickens, wife of local solicitor Mr Anthony Wickens of 32, The Greem, Chalvey and Mrs Janet Wickens of Earley near Reading. The daughters married cousins. - Slough Observer Friday, August 27, 1965
At the inquest on Friday October 22, the coroner ruled that Mrs Moon died as a result of an accident and recorded a verdict of misadventure. The pathologist gave evidence that she died of carbon monoxide poisoning and that the post mortem examination revealed no external injuries. There remained the question of what had caused the gas leak but a conflict in expert evidence prevented any conclusion:
Mr Harold Surtees [Gas Board] said he examined the premises the day after the fire. He found a three-quarter inch gas pipe which had been fractured. The cause of the fracture, he said, was due to intense heat. The pipe was contained between two joists in the middle of the roof, with a network of electrical cable in the middle of these joists. He found that part of the cable had a short circuit. He felt the cause of the fire was a short circuit producing intense heat which in turn caused the gas pipe to fracture. The gas, he went on, would escape, mix with oxygen and collect in the roof until the roof was full of gas. Then some of the gas would leak through into the downstairs section of the house where it would meet a naked flame and cause an explosion. He considered there were four possibilities of how the cable could have been short circuited. It could have been faulty in manufacture or in installation. Or it may have been damaged by sharp fibre wool or it may have been trodden on and damaged in that way. Under questioning, he said all the gas pipe fittings in the bungalow had been tested only two months before.
Mr Daniel Dickins [Electricity Board] said he went to the bungalow on the night of the fire. He found the cable installations were good and the wiring was new. He examined the cable which had a short circuit in it and told the coroner that such a short circuit would blow the fuses immediately and prevent a flow of electricity.
In June said Mr Alfred Chandler of Conroy, 16 Byways Burnham he went to the bungalow to put in some new points. He completed the work and tested the installations. All were working as required, he said, and there were no faults. He also considered the short circuit referred to would have caused the fuses to blow. - unidentified newspaper report
According to the report of the inquest, evidence was, also, given that Mrs Moon was in good spirits on the day of the accident. She had only moved in a few days before the fire.
1967 - ANXIOUS TIMES
1967 was an anxious year for John Suter's family. The new Slough store was well established but plans for a general redevelopment of the adjoining area by Slough corporation threatened disruption and a more challenging retail environment. There is a photo of the Slough store from the car park as existing in 1967 but it was known, by then, that the customers car park would disappear and other land owned by the company be taken by compulsory purchase as part of the redevelopment. There are photos from the store roof including the view to the south, with Windsor Castle on the sky line
About this time John Suter was involved in the discussions within Suters Ltd which led to the a reorganisation of company management. The main change was that the four Suter brothers gave up executive responsibility for the business and this was taken over by an Executive Committee made up of David, Tom and Tony Suter who reported to the main board.
1969 THE TRAFFIC LIGHTS AND SCANDINAVIA
To encourage more customers a Scandinavian shopping event was held. A couple of buyers headed off to buy specialst merchandise and the Tirol Restaurant in Slough would have changed it's normal menu for this event. Some of this merchandise was already being sold in the stores. Similar events included and "Irish" event. A special brochure was designed for this event. (click on image below)
Dick Suter master minded two new promotions at Suters during September 1969. At 11 a.m. on Saturday the 20th September Tony Blackburn, "the Whizz Kid of Radio 1", opened the Traffic Lights Boutique on the first floor at the Uxbridge Store and, at 3 p.m. on the following Thursday, the Mayor of Hillingdon welcomed "the Scandinavians" on the ground floor. A Traffic Lights Boutique was, already open at the Slough store where a similar Scandinavian promotion was staged.
Radio 1 was the BBC's answer to the pirate radio stations which, since the early sixties, had broadcast pop music from a miscellaneous collection of ships and rigs anchored just outside British territorial water.
The most popular was Radio Caroline set up under the Panamanian flag on an old passenger ferry moored three miles off the Harwich coast. It first began broadcasting on 29 March 1964, making a star of the irreverent young disc jockey Simon Dee and within a year Radio Caroline and its buccaneering competitors commanded an audience of several million listeners. Some were based on ships or minesweepers, others on maritime forts and towers. All benefited from new multi-track tape technology that made it possible to combine hit records, commercials, station jingles and the disc jockey's patter in a seamless blend of sound, while the disc jockeys themselves cultivated a youthful, cheeky, classless style …. Dominic Sandbrook: White Heat
The Maritime Broadcasting (Offences) Act 1967 closed the pirate stations down and the BBC captured many of their best disc jockeys for a new radio station - Radio 1. Tony Blackburn was one of these and had a large and sometimes hysterically enthusiastic following.
A press report, probably from the Middlesex Advertiser, the following week confirms that Richard's choice of Tony Blackburn as an engine for publicity was a good one. Under a headline "Tony is amber-dextrous" it described his visit:
Traffic lights in Uxbridge caused chaos for over an hour on Saturday - but not on the roads. It was all inside Suters department store where top disc jockey Tony Blackburn opened the Traffic Lights boutique. Scores of teenagers, plus younger fans and the odd astounded adult packed the store's first floor.
Tony Blackburn's arrival at 11 o'clock saw the green light for a loud screaming and pushing session. After fighting his way through the jostling crowd, the young disc jockey urged the excited fans to calm themselves. By the time he had left just after mid-day his name was scrawled across a vast number of hands and books. Inevitably there were several fainting cases and children who became detached from their parents or sisters.
Suters' display manager Mr Peter Curry had the difficult job of keeping the crowd in order before and during Tony Blackburn's visit. Clutching a microphone he managed to pacify them with a mixture of threats, jokes and insults. Quipped Tony: "His jokes were a darn sight better than mine".
Manageress of the new boutique is a 19 year old former secretary Alison Davidson of Kenbury Close, Ickenham. She trained at the Slough branch for the take-over.
Philip Suter remembers being there. He was "playing" DJ for the event. "We had brought along Dick Suter's record player with a selection of 45s and LPs and the first floor was going crazy. I believe Françoise Hardy had just released "Comment Te Dire Adieu" at the time and was trying to get into UK charts so I was busy playing this and tracks from Creedence Clearwater Revival. I remember Peter Curry on the store's PA system trying to keep everyone calm. Quite an event."
The boutiques were aimed at fashion conscious teenage and young adult customers and, at the Slough store on the previous Wednesday, 450 people including both Wendy-Ann Ensor and her youngest brother Philip Suter turned up at the Tirol Restaurant at the Slough store to see the Suters Traffic Lights Boutique Fashion Rave including six models who danced their way through different sets of the boutique's clothing.
…And there was even a male model - 18 year old Richard Haliday, of Farnham Common (above), who also acts. When he's not being a Uni-sex Explosion, that is. He wore the same trousers as the girls and was a big hit with the ladies in the audience.…To the sound of freaky music, in the glare of coloured lights the models showed all the latest gear for young people - capes and coats that reached the floor, gorgeous coloured evening culottes in beautiful materials, lots of cire with lashings of chains, velvet, and a touch of Unisex clothing. - Evening Mail - Thursday September 18th 1969
Both Wendy-Ann Ensor and her brother Philip Suter had front seats and while Philip seems extremely interested something outside the range of the Mail's camera his big sister is not at all sure if it is suitable for him. The "something" may have been the Indian model Zobi who according to both the Evening Mail and a report in another (unidentified) paper lost her bikini top in one of the more energetic dances.
A fashion show at Suter's on Wednesday was publicised as a "Show with a difference". It was - when attractive 19 year old Indian model Zobi proved to be a show-stopper with an unscheduled sensation. In front of an audience of over 400 she accidentally parted company with the top half of her bikini!
She danced onstage in perhaps the most striking outfit she wore in the show, a silver knitted dress, which she peeled off to reveal a stunning silver Lurex bikini.
Zobi's energetic dancing to pop music accompaniment proved too much for the garment to cope with, and she and one half of the bikini top parted company.
But Zobi danced on unaware of what had happened until a burst of laughter from the audience warned her that something was amiss. She rectified the matter and apparently unconcerned, danced off to appear a few moments later in something much safer - a black high-necked catsuit.
…The show itself was a real swinger. The models, six girls and a lone male, danced enthusiastically on stage in an exciting selection of clothes, and the show gained pace and excitement from having a total absence of commentary throughout.
The clothes were all from Suter's Traffic Lights boutique in the Slough store. A new boutique at the firm's Uxbridge store will be opened tomorrow (Saturday) by Radio 1 disc-jockey Tony Blackburn.
It is probably a sign of the times that, in 1969, the paper did not include a photo of the critical moment.
©Richard Ensor - January 2005
Left (image does not enlarge) W Wigglesworth the chemist in Church Street Slough, one of the local shops that John Suter would shop at.
We understand further information about Suters Ltd can be found at the Slough Museum, Slough Berks Find out more Here
©Philip Suter - December 2013
Source of images, unless otherwise stated - Suter family archives