“Phoned up WH Smiths in Winch. Got to see manager Monday morning. Party at Hiltingbury – Rubbish!”
WH Smiths – or as it is properly known WH Smith (no “s”) – is one of the UK’s oldest retailers.
It started life in 1848 as little more than a news vendor on London’s Euston station and was owned and run by William Henry Smith. It quickly took advantage of the railway boom going on at the time, opening other outlets – adding books and magazines to its mix – on the station concourses in Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool stations.
The business slowly grew and was passed down from father to son until 1948 when death duties threatened to undermine it. It ended up being sold to its workers and the public under an ambitious share scheme which kept it trading successfully.
There was still a family-member “Smith” on the board of directors as recently as 1996!
In 1966, and as the country’s foremost bookseller, Smiths originated an in-house 9-digit code for uniquely referencing the books it sold. They called it Standard Book Numbering or SBN. It was adopted as a recognised international standard four years later, when it was re-tagged the ISBN scheme.
In the early seventies, WH Smith started getting involved in more areas of retailing than just its core business of newspapers, books, stationery and magazines. It set up a travel offshoot as well as running a set of DIY stores (Do It All) in conjunction with High Street rival Boots.
To take advantage of the music boom, it also introduced record & tape departments to most of its bigger outlets, Winchester being amongst those converted.
And on this day in 1975, yours truly snagged an interview with the manager. I can’t work out who was more desperate – them or me?
In other news, another Hiltingbury party and another “rubbish” review, doubtless meaning there was no top totty to be had. Or, if there were, none of it was at all interested in this geekish out of work ‘bum’