Working at Kennards in the 1960s

A recollection of working at Kennards in the 1960s. 

Written by Brian Pond. 

Kennards advert from 1969.

Kennards advert from 1969.

To work you need a National Insurance number, and in the 1960’s you could get one at the age of 14¾. My aunt’s mother in law worked at Kennards in the haberdashery department and she arranged an interview for me. The personnel and management offices were on the first floor of the Batchelars part of the store where you reported every Saturday to be allocated a department. I was posted to menswear in the basement.

Male staff wore dark suits, female staff often wore dark skirts and blouses, but other outfits were allowed. Saturday staff pay was £1.00 less 6d National Insurance.

Kennards was actually two shops joined together. Facing the front, Kennards was on the left, then the entrance to the arcade, Lyons restaurant and a few other shops, then what was Batchelars store. The later extension to the shop in Frith and Keeley roads was built behind the North End stores, but mostly Batchelars.

Menswear was on the Lower ground floor, accessible from the arcade entrance on the left down a flight of stairs. There was a Manager, Deputy and several sales staff who were mainly women.

I mainly sold socks. Shirts were mainly in boxes, underwear was mostly Y front and white, woollen socks were very popular.

After some months I was posted to the record department. This was located behind Menswear alongside the electrical department. To the front of the electrical department was TV & radio and to the rear was white goods. They must have liked me because this was my Saturday place for most weeks.

Records were LP’s (long play) EP’s (extended play) or singles which were all kept in a large rack behind the counter. LP covers were kept in browsing bins around the department. Listening booths were provided to sample the music with the record players behind the counter. Most stock was delivered by post, but CBS & Pye records were supplied by a van salesman who parked in the arcade entrance.

The TV & radio department sold a lot of Radiograms. They were demonstrated using LP’s from our department and we sold a lot of LP’s by James Last, the German band leader, after he was heard on the radiogram.

In 1968 Kennards had the first colour TV in Croydon on display (made by Decca), it needed to be adjusted most days and was never sold!

After leaving school at Easter in 1968, I took a full time job in the record department which paid me £7 per week.

After Saturday work it was a somewhat different world. I had always taken lunch outside at the Wimpy bar, but my new colleagues introduced me to the staff restaurant which was hidden upstairs away from the public. It was very large, old fashioned and cheap!

There were hidden stock rooms. Radio & TV was off the arcade on the right and some of the stock was very old and never sold.

If you purchased a TV or radiogram, very often it could be delivered that day, even a Saturday. Delivery vans were kept behind the old depository in Drummond Road and I could be seconded to help carry the item.

The staff entrance was also in Drummond Road, the shop ran behind all the North End shops in front.

Before security cameras the shop had a store detective, a lady who walked around in a suit clutching a shoulder bag. She caught someone take one of our records without paying whilst I was on shift but there was no police action however, she just made him come and pay!

There were quite a few departments that you would not find in a modern department store such as a food hall, sheet music, haberdashery and knitting wool.

To earn extra money I worked overtime clearing the tills. All the cash registers had to be totalled and reset every evening. This meant going round the store in partial darkness and hoping the tills still had power. If not you had to use the handle provided for manual operation.

Working hours were full time Monday to Saturday, with half day closing on Wednesdays.

You can read more about the history of Croydon in our magazine by visiting the link at the top of the page. We are hoping to relaunch this in the near future. 

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  • Philip George Harfleet

    Thoroughly enjoyed reading this Kennards article. This famous store was, in my view, the best large department store ever! I used to spend hours during the 1940s wandering around this grand place, especially the unique Arcade. So many memories of those long gone days. Superb place, never bettered.