James Shoolbred & Co. was established as a draper’s shop in the 1820s and evolved to become one of the first great department stores in London.
James Shoolbred opened his drapery business at 155 Tottenham Court Road, London. He soon purchased the properties on either side of his shop. The enlarged premises included a haberdashers and a carpet warehouse, as well as expanded accomodation for the stock of textiles, which included wool, silk and linen.
James Shoolbred & Co. began to design and manufacture its own furniture in 1870. The furniture, along with other interior accessories, was displayed in a series of catalogues that the company produced every year. The catalogues were so detailed that many were used as pattern books for customers to copy the latest London furniture styles.
By the 1880s, the company had expanded to such an extent that the business had to move to premises that functioned as an early department store.
The new store proved popular from the start. Customers were impressed by the detailed displays of interior decorative schemes. Furniture, textiles, carpets and various accessories would be laid out as they would be seen in a real interior. This made it much easier for customers to perceive what their purchases would look like outside the constraints of the department store.
James Shoolbred & Co. did not survive the financial crisis of the late 1920s and ceased trading in 1931.