Sir John Randall is to close the department store that has borne his family name since 1891.
The Uxbridge and South Ruislip MP told the Gazette he will hold a final closing down sale in January then shut up the shop in Vine Street, Uxbridge, for good, so ending 123 years of unbroken trading.
With it will go a piece of the fabric of the town, born in an era of burgeoning retail growth, as the outer London suburbs boomed and soft furnishings, domestic appliances and consumer goods came into high demand, all sold under one roof in a series of departments by attentive staff offering impeccable service.
Their modern day counterparts have known of the closure for some time, and some have moved to other jobs in recent weeks, but those that remain, about 18 of them, will be made redundant.
One female member of staff has been there for 42 years.
A clearly upset Sir John said the decision had been one of the hardest in his life, harder even than the decision to step down from Parliament at the next general election.
“It’s up there with bereavement,” he said.
“I have two other shareholders and both agree that it has become unviable.
“It’s probably a combination of things, including a lack of footfall and online sales. It will be a voluntary winding up.”
Sir John said all orders will be honoured, in what will be a gradual closure over the space of more than a month.
The shop will close for Christmas on Friday, December 19 and then hold a private sale on Tuesday and Wednesday, December 30 and 31.
“In January we will be having a closing down sale that will last until the end of the month,” said Sir John.
“We will close the doors finally on January 31.”
Randall’s was founded by Sir John’s great-grandfather, Philip, in 1891. In 1888, he had bought what was then the Carbutt’s store in Vine street and renamed it ‘Randall’s Stores’ three years later.
By the time of his death in 1936, his son, Bert, was running the shop, and Bert’s son, Alec, was a recently qualified cabinet maker.
After war service which included action at Monte Cassino and in North Africa, Alec came home to pick up the reins of the family business, to be joined, after a stint in the post-war RAF, by his younger brother, Norman.
Alec’s son, John – born in 1955 – followed his dad and uncle Norman into the business, and when he was elected to Parliament in 1997, Norman came out of retirement for a spell.
“Both my sons have worked there, so we have had five generations working there,” said the Conservative MP, who was Knighted by The Queen in the New Year’s Honours List this year. Prince Charles performed the ceremony at Buckingham Palace in February.
At present there are no firm plans for the part-Grade II listed building with its distinctive neon letters on a Modernist facade of brick faced in cream faience with Royal Doulton Carraraware detailing, designed by WL Eves and built to replace the original structure in 1938, on the corner plot that includes the old Uxbridge fire station in neighbouring Cricketfield Road.
So unspoiled is the interior of Randall’s, with its island display case, cash office and – athough no longer used – pneumatic tube communication system, that film and television companies have used it regularly for period dramas. ITV’s Endeavour and the BBC’s New Tricks both filmed scenes there recently.
The Recycle-A-Bike charity, which works with men who have mental health issues, occupies the old fire station rent free, but is under no immediate pressure to move out.
Sir John and other family members own the freehold of the shop, yard and outbuildings, and he says he is ‘putting feelers out’ at the moment to gauge any interest.
He said: “I hope the building will remain very much a part of Uxbridge, but as a department store it has just had its time, very regrettably, and there we are.”
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