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VM choice: Props with a purpose

Upper Marsh’s vintage store, Radio Days, has some props that we rarely see in retail stores today. Hat-boxes are lovely decorative objects now restricted to occasion events, no longer an everyday pleasure. Imagine a row of boxes all suggesting lovely concoctions within. The box on the far right is from D.H. Evans, the Oxford Street department store which became part of the House of Fraser group in 1999 after trading for 144 years.

Hat-boxes could be recovered if the décor of a bedroom changed, so these may not be the original papers. Traditionally they were lined-up on top of a wardrobe when not in use. The translucent one at the bottom of the stack is an intriguing, presumed-practical idea.

This shoe department stool was designed so that the sales assistant could sit on the padded stool while measuring the foot-width of the customer. Prevalent in department stores and shoe shops that offered a choice of shoe-widths, merchandise standardization has seen their demise.

Conversely, this quaint pre-decimal item has now become a feature of Ted Baker’s new stores. National, now the NCR Corporation, is a US based company still offering hardware, software, and electronics for sales transactions.

Love the branding…

The need for a wooden sign indicating the cashier seems puzzling in a retail world where self-service is virtually paramount, but this sign comes from a period not so very long ago where all merchandise was displayed on or behind counters. The cash machine would have been located at one counter in a department. Larger stores may have operated a vacuum cash tube system where cash is placed in a container in a tube, and sent by vacuum to the cash office, from where a receipt and change were promptly returned. A similar wire system also existed.

This Chevignon sunglasses stand, probably from the 1980s, embodies the retro styling of the European brand.

Grenville was a men’s silk and silk/cotton neckwear specialist of which all traces have disappeared apart from the odd necktie on e-bay, but its robust packaging here suggests a quality product. Barathea is the conventional method of making tie fabric: using a cotton warp (often black) and a silk weft (usually colourful). From the font, I’m guessing the box dates from the 1920s.

Perhaps this article has reminded us all that fashions in retailing change, and although the process may remain the same, the merchandise changes, and the props used to sell the merchandise change too.

Thanks to Radio Days for permission to photograph the store.