Anything From a Pin to an Elephant
Tales of Norfolk Retail
- Chris Armstrong
15th March 2016
The popularity of recent television drama series such as The Paradise and Mr Selfridge, and the splendid three-part documentary Shopgirls: the True Story of Life Behind the Counter, is evidence enough of the level of public interest in the history of the retail trade. Even today, Norfolk boasts a remarkable collection of genuinely independent stores which have survived just about everything that has been thrown at them: wars, bombs, fires, recessions and depressions, family fallings out, takeover bids and a succession of revolutionary changes in the retail market.
Chris Armstrong has painstakingly researched the fascinating history of five of Norfolk’s most iconic department stores, unearthing many previously unheard stories and meeting some genuinely eccentric characters along the way. One such character, Arnold Roy, one of the founding brothers of Roys of Wroxham, was hailed as ‘the Norfolk Napoleon’ and an extraordinary appearance on the BBC’s In Town Tonight in the 1930s gave rise to an avalanche of letters from ladies wishing to marry him, as well as the title of this book (which was his answer to the question of what was sold in his emporium). The author draws attention to the impact of the massive changes in the retail market, from out of town stores to the growth of internet shopping, on these stores and investigates the rapid growth of the shops run by a local charity.
Roys of Wroxham, Palmer’s of Great Yarmouth, W. J. Aldiss, Jarrold & Sons, Bakers & Larners, The Break chain of charity shops