Further Miscellaneous Facts and Information from the Suters era at Uxbridge and Slough......
Please note that if click on some of the images on this page they will enlarge
Burglar Alarms: The Slough store was connected by phone line to Slough Police Station, so if the alarm went off the Police would investigate first. They would then phone someone on the "call out list" who would be a key holder. At Uxbridge, no direct connection was actaually made to the local Police, however they would contact the local Uxbridge contact person and Philip Suter remembers, his father John Suter always appeared as the only phone number this person could remember. It was not until he was in hospital for a couple of months in the late 1960s did this stop.
Carpets and Soft Furnishings: When the Slough store was rebuilt in the 1960s a pupose built building in the car park area was built. Downstairs was a carpet warehouse / cutting area and on the first floor a workroom facility (image below)
When Slough Borough Council made the compulsory purchase of the land behind the Slough Store for the new Queensmere shopping centre, that building had to go. The soft furnishing workshop was brought into the the main building in a room on the third floor(image below) , but was never as spacious as the original.
Carpet storage was transferred to India Road, Slough initially and when the Stoke Gardens, Slough warehouse was built it moved there. From the mid 1970s a sub contractor was used to fit the carpets, however curtains continued to be fitted by long term employee Harry Ponton.
Morris Carpet Van from 1967
Communications Within the Stores: At Uxbridge if one of the directors was required there was a system of lights and and an electronic noise. On each floor there was a large square double sided clock hanging from an area close to a light well.
There were three coloured lights below and lights shone for whowever was the person required. When the Slough store was re-built a purpose built "Tannoy" loudspeaker system was fitted to areas throughout the store. This was used for customer service announcements and for contacting staff. A similar system was then installed into Uxbridge.
There was an internal telephone sysyem using phones like the ones in the images above that would normally be everyday phones found in Italy at that time. To contact someone in another department / office you simply dialled the number. However if that person could be anywhere within the store, you simply picked up an ordinary BT (Post Office) black phone and were answered by "Switchboard" and requested you put a call out for "Mr Jones 15". Mr Jones would then dial 15 on the internal phone. To commuicate cost effectively between branches the company paid for a "private" line so the internal phones could be used instead of using the BT (Post Office) line. So this would not be abused as there was only one line, certain management phones had a button on the phone that could be pressed to listen to a call briefly if the line was engaged for a long time.
At Slough in the 1970s the main switchboard operator was a certain "Mrs Pay". This lady had a delightful telephone voice and manner, such a voice that would today be used in automated announcements. The switchboard was located in a small room within the open plan "General Office" on the third floor.
At Uxbridge there was a small switchboard unit on a desk in the the General Office on the third floor. When Arthur and Dorothy Suter lived at Krithia, Norfolk Road in Uxbridge, a short walk from the High Street, for many years their home telephone was in fact part of the Uxbridge store network. This meant that during business hours if they needed to phone out, someone would have to dial the number or give them use of the line and when they received calls they would have to be put through to their house.
Like other similar businesses Suters also had background music playing and naturally in December the tune changed to Christmas music. Unlike in many retailers in the 2000s the volume was not too loud and the objective was to make the customer feel relaxed whilst shopping. Unfortunately in 2016 the volume is so loud that many people find that they cannot think properly and just want to get out of the shop or store.
Computerised Monthly Accounting for Customers: The Uxbridge store has a mechanical system of using cards with holes punched in them (Possibly supplied by Bell Punch in Uxbridge). In the late 1960s with the accounts department now located in the much spacious Slough store, a computer bureau at Hounslow was used.
There was a large machine in the General Office that someone had to input data into and then the data was sent to Hounslow. The statements would be printed at Hounslow and returned to Slough to be posted out to customers. This system remained like this until the company was sold to Owen Owen in 1978. The computer bureau was used for providing stock control records, target and other information required to run the business and most of the information appeared on very wide sheets of paper that was common with computers in that era.
Over the years Suters provided a free delivery service from a large radius of both stores. In some popular locations deliveries were made more than once a week. Up until the 1970s separate vans were based at Uxbridge and Slough.
Eventually the service was operated out of Slough covering both stores. With the introduction of the sale of washing machines, fridges and freezers at Slough a specific day of the week was set aside for the delivery of these much larger items. In the 1950s and 60s furniture was sold at Uxbridge and often the removal team might assist with deliveries. Beds were sold from both stores, but delivery was usually from the base at India Road, Slough and then later Stoke Gardens.
At Uxbridge deliveries left the building via the Goods Entrance in Bakers Yard pictured below in the 1950s and later when Sports Direct occupied that part of the building. and at Slough the "Goods Inwards" and delivery bay below left in the car park at the rear of the store and when Queensmere Shopping Centre was built there it moved to first floor levl on the right hand picture below.
do Suters deliver the goods? 1972 "Perhaps it's news to you that when you shop at Suters it's not neccesary to heave your purchases home with you. Because we make free deliveries in your area. At least once a week.
Which means that when you buy your child a bicycle or yourself a food mixer we literaly take the load off your shoulders. By delivering from our door to your door.
And if you prefer to shop from home just call our telephone receptionist. Who'll connect you with the department you want.
So our vanman can deliver the goods without your stepping out of your house.
We try to make to make your shopping simple. And enjoyable. So take us up on our offer. Soon." More about making this advertisement Here
Philip Suter comment on department stores delivery services. "Back in the late 1970s when I was taking a Diploma in Furnishing at the College for Distributive Trades in Leicester Square, London. One the lecturers recalled a story when he worked for Harrods. A customer telephoned to compain about the delivery service. Nothing was damaged, it was the correct day etc, however the Harrods delivery van had not parked outside her house, but a neighbour's one!
A similar story was told to me by a colleague at Frank Farr in the 1990s. His relative was working for John Lewis in High Wycombe. Again the same type of complaint with the van not parking outside the customer's house, but a neighbour's property.
I am not sure if the customers of Suters had similar concerns!"
Fire Detection Systems: A sprinkler system was installed in the Uxbridge store, however when the Slough store was re-built a "Minerva" detection system was used instead. Within a few years, however a sprinkler system was installed there too and two systems used. See also Suters Limited Staff Rule Book
Fisher and Denning Ltd: The names Fisher and Denning have occured a great deal in the early part of the Suters Ltd history. When a wholesale subsidary was established it was created under this brand. The objective was to have a vehicle to buy merchandise for Suters Ltd through and also have other customers too. Merchandise like toys and stationery were purchased and sold this way.
A warehouse at 20 India Road, Slough was purchased and trade customers would buy supplies for their local shops and it was even open one evening a week. The building was very useful as it also had a very large shed at the rear that housed the shopfitting workshop and was purchased after all the car park area including soft furnishing workshop and van garage had been compulsory purchased by the Council for the Queensmere shoppoing centre project. At least five vans could be parked securely at the side of the building. A house opposite the building was also purchased for a member of staff to live in and to "keep an eye" on the building across the street.
Land was later leased nearer the Slough store at Stoke Gardens and a pupose built warehouse developed. This also included the Fisher and Denning operation. There were flats at first and second floor level with the idea they could be used for staff accommodation. They were never occupied. Accross the road a small shop was also purchased and the idea behind this was to sell washing machines and other "white domestic goods". The company sold a great amount of this type of product, much of it being supplied by AEG. The development of the shop never took place.
The Fisher and Denning operation ran a cash and carry for local shops to suply them with toys and other associated products and included late night shopping once a week. This enabled local traders to stock up whilst their shops were closed.
Lamson Paragon Tube System: When the Uxbridge store was rebuilt, a very modern system for sending cash and account bills from an individual department to a central point was included. Theis newtwork of pupes runing with suction pressure meant money need not be on the shop floor and the transaction completed in the cash office.
If the customer was paying by account (or "on approval") the tube the item was put in would be a different colour so it could be sent to the General Office for processing in "Sanctions". It was then returned to the cash office (above left at Uxbridge) and then sent back to department.
In the Feedback section of this website there have been comments from readers about "the tubes" and one comment from a lady from the High Wycombe area who as a Saturday girl had worked in the "Lamson Room" and her late mother was a regular employee there.
With the rebuilding of the Slough store a more modern system (above left) was installed. This time for example the special coloured containers for account customers automatically went to the Slough general office and had a magnet in each one to make them take a different route.
White Carrier: For all cash sales including cheques, club stamps and lay-bys.
Red Carrier: For entries, account payments, Gift vouchers, C.O.D.
Green Carrier: Buyers use only for invoices post etc.
A note in the staff training manuel said "Make sure that the carriers are completely closed nefore using Lamson Tube otherwise cash and bills may be lost in transit".
When Philip Suter was working at Bourne and Hollingsworth in Oxford Street, London in the early 1970s they too had a similar system although very rarely used as commercial tills were by that time more effective. The cash office was in the basement and it did mean that security arrangements had to be changed so the tills could be emptyied throughout the day and money transported off the shop floor. Many modern supermarkets like Tescos have similar systems in some of their branches whereby there are shutes near the checkouts that send money in large containers to the appropriate cash office.
In the 1970s although the Lampson system continued to be used, tills at "Cash and Wrap" pay pooints will very much the alternative as this was a much faster method of carrying out a transaction. More about the Lamson system at Uxbridge Here
Randalls in Uxbridge the store that was located in Vine Street, Uxbridge and traded for 123 years and finally closed in January 2015 also used this system - See photo here of Sir John Randall demonstrating the Lamson pneumatic tube system.
Like other department stores, Suters ran a removal and storage department moving customers all over Britain and sometimes onto mainland Europe. It was based in Uxbridge and there was one large removal van and a smaller one. They were kept in the garage behind "Burtons" on the old Waterloo House site.
One of the most difficult moves was when TV presenter Richard Dimbleby moved to an island in the middle of the River Thames. It was very much an "all hands on deck" for this somewhat complicated move.
The service was run by Archie Taylor. In the the early 1960s the existing vans were replaced by an "A" registered large Bedford van and a "B" registration Bedford van.
The larger vehicle was like this "Bestways" removal van from that era, in fact when the removal service was closed the Suters van was sold to Bestways.
The company had two furniture depositories. One of which was a leasehold premises and the other a freehold building in Trout Road and Colham Mill Road in West Drayton, Middlesex.
When the Uxbridge store was re-built in the 1930s the front and rear windows formed window displays customers could look at easily in the evenings or on a Sunday. This arrangement lasted til the 1960s when the front was changed at Uxbridge to increase sales space inside and the rear was also modified. Metal gates were then pulled across and locked for the night. Mr Charlie Aldin who was in charge of the despatch area and had the use of the "Suters" delivery bike shown by the round window in the left hand image above lived locally and would return to the store during the course of the evening to lock up.
At Slough a similar arrangement was made until the store was re-built in the 1960s
Between the main store and Milwards Shoes (in 2015 Clarks) on the right an arcade was created with windows and vending machines. These vending machines not only sold sweets, but also items like Corgi model cars, nylons etc so Suters in Slough was open 24/7. This arcade led to further side doors and to the car park at the rear. This meant the store had display windows on three sides of the building.
Unfortunately the area started to suffer from vandalism and eventually most of this side arcade was blocked off. After Suters sold out to Owen Owen, one of the later owners - Owen Owen, Alders or Debenhams converted this area into sales space.
Staff Accommodation: Over the years the company had purchased a lot of property in the Slough area for staff accommodation, some of it was used occasionally as "back up" warehouse space for busy periods such as Christmas.
Although much of this propery either became part of some development or was sold on, a large house in Datchet (Above left) was divided into flats and used by staff. Even in the 60s and 70s if you were advertising for specialist staff, you might have to provide accommodation as they could be moving from the other side of the country were property prices were much lower.
Slough and Uxbridge Apart from Directors, Managers and buyers, the majority of the staff at Suters had to clock in and clock out. This worked by cards (as per image below) being put in the clock recording machine and a different colour card for each week. The individual cards would then have to be individually calculated by hand by the wages office.The system also applied to Saturday staff.
Staff Restaurant Facilities: When the Slough store was re-built a purpose built staff restaurant (Canteen) was incorporated next to the kitchen for the Tirol Restaurant on the second floor. Within a very short space of time it was discovered that a much larger kitchen was required so the staff canteen was relocated to an area above on the third floor. A "dumb waiter" lift was installed and staff benefited from subsidised catering.
At Uxbridge the original staff "mess room" could only provide tea or coffee and room for people to eat their own sandwiches. As time went by improvements were made, however the extent of the catering never went past fiiled rolls, sausage and mash and other easy to prepare meals.
© Philip Suter 2014 / 2015
We understand further information about Suters Ltd can be found at the Slough Museum, Slough Berks Find out more Here
Source of images, unless otherwise stated - Suter family archives