By 1907 the mail order side of the business had grown so large it was decided a separate company
should be formed, The Northern Trading Company, parent of Empire Stores. The range of goods available
on credit terms became attractive to less well off customers who were used to surviving on around £1. 4s
a week and who had the ability to pay a small regular sum each week to purchase more expensive household
When in 1910 the family decided to apply for The Northern Trading Company to become limited, they
found there was already a company registered with that name, they had to choose another name and the
registrar suggested Empire Stores Ltd. The family agreed and all the shares were taken up by members
of the Fattorini family.
By the turn of the century there were more than 1000 clubs.
Times were hard after the Great War and unemployment was running somewhere between 1 and 3 million,
traditionally families resorted to buying essentials on 'the weekly' and Empire Stores continued to
prosper, the number of agents recruited and catalogues produced continued to rise. Agents received
15% commission, postage was paid by Empire who also took responsibility for bad debts.
Browsing through the catalogues produced in the 1930's gives us a great insight into the realities
of day to day life and the changes lifestyles and leisure activities. Gramophones and Wireless sets
became a more common and a pleasant way to pass time in the evenings.
During World War 2, Empire, like most other retail businesses suffered.
With rationing on the use of paper, the catalogue was reduced to just 50 pages, luxury items all but
disappeared from the range to be substituted by more somber items such as blackout material, portable
cradles for air raid shelters and even trousers for women! Prices were controlled by the government
but as many items were in short supply, soon after a catalogue was produced, items would be sold out.
By 1946 Empire Stores was under the management of Edward Fattorini, who reluctantly moved from
his jewellery shop to manage Empire when his brother Herbert retired early in the war. It was with
much relief that he was able to hand back the keys to the business to his son Joseph, when he returned
from service as a major in the army and return to his jewellery shop.
During his time in the army Joseph had become good friends with his regiments commanding officer
Colonel C.T. (mick)Wells who in his civilian life had worked in marketing with a London advertising
agency. Joseph brought him on board at Empire and as marketing manager he pushed sales figures to
an all time high. Together they set about rebuilding Empire after its decline during the war years.
As employment improved and customers had more disposable income, so they were able to be more
discriminating in their choice of goods. Mail order had to compete with the High Street and as a result,
Empire began to stock famous branded goods.
The fortunes of Empire continued to prosper during the fifties and sixties and inevitably as the company
expanded significant positions within the company were taken up outside of the Fattorini family.