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Littlewoods Direct Home Shopping
The 1990s : THE RECESSION YEARS

WOMEN IN SOCIETY - Launch of Littlewoods Extra now called Littlewoods Direct

In the 60 years since the advent of home shopping the fortunes of the United Kingdom had turned full circle, and the country was once again in recession.

Notwithstanding, there were further indications of change in the political and social perception of women.

They were already beginning to command a different kind of recognition in society, on the labour market, and within the family.

The 'new woman' was now perceived as an individual, not just one in an amorphous mass; someone with intelligence, ambition and a discrete -often viewed by men as unpredictable personality.

littlewoods direct catalogue cover 1992

From confinement in the closed domestic world, women were emerging to become competitive in a society where the once powerful external pressures (peer group disapproval, the compulsion to

Yet Thatcherism had bred a more conforn1ist society, and this was proving, rather surprisingly for women, an advantage rather than an obstacle.

More women were to be found in executive roles in industry; successful businesses were founded and controlled by women; some companies prospered in the teeth of recession because they were manned solely by ambitious and skilful women.

Perhaps the most significant sociological development affecting women has been the weakening concept of the nuclear family. only four in ten British women are now full-time housewives.

Furthermore, the percentage of women in paid employment has increased steadily over the Past 20 years: and of the majority of women holding jobs, a third identify their work as a career.

Women's disposable income has increased enorniously. In the present decade women over 45 account for about 18 billion of annual expenditure; however this group still makes 90% of grocery purchases.

littlewoods catalogue page 1990

But statistics still do not reflect the advances women have made. In the decade from the mid-1970s the percentages of women in both top and middle management positions actually fell and only since then had started slowly to rise.

The new Parliament elected in April, 1992, contains fewer than l0% MPs - and there are just two in John Major's Cabinet.

Against the backdrop of boom and recession years, home shopping in the United Kingdom has grown from virtually nothing to a 4.3% share of the non-food retail market.

Littlewoods Extra Catalogue Now called Very

In 1992 Mail Order Sales in the UK totalled 3.566 billion: Littlewoods' share was 933m (28%). In this period Littlewoods Home Shopping Group publishes and distributes seven catalogues (Littlewoods, Index Extra, Burlington, Peter Craig, John Moores, (including the Launch of Littlewoods first direct brand; Littlewoods Extra, now rebranded as Very*) and they are one of the two largest mail order companies in the country. There are between 5.5 and 6 million part-time home shopping agents in the UK, which means that one British household in five operates a mail order agency. And 18 million people -one out of every three adults - buy goods at some time from a home shopping catalogue.

Nowadays they mostly order on the 'phone, so maintaining the invaluable human contact with the organiser. Today, home shopping consumers are indeed faced with a greater choice than they have ever been offered - at prices which "have to be totally competitive with hypermarkets and high street discount houses, or the system would simply not survive" (Bob Lancaster). A growing number of customers now have access to credit and to meet this new demand and to widen the appeal across the demographic spectum Littlewoods has developed a Direct Brand - Index Extra (now called Very).
Index Extra transformed into Littlewoods Extra, and then Littlewoods Direct has since had a name change to Very.co.uk and along with the rebranding, the new website has a newer, younger style. "And during a recession home shopping is a particularly attractive option: extended credit over a long period for necessary purchases can often make the crucial difference in a family's ability to survive". In 2007 Littlewoods extra was re-branded to Littlewoods Direct and the relaunched with an advertising campaign featuring Trinny and Susannah - celebrity style gurus.



Littlewoods Spring 1992 catalogue (one of six now published by the group) lists a massive array of clothing, labour-saving devices and leisure goods.

And compared with 1932, the cost of many articles has gone up by less than the approximate hundredfold increase common to many sectors of the general retail index. Wages and property prices have, of course, risen by a greater multiple factor.

"What the catalogue still maintains is the relationship between price and quality offering", says Littlewoods' Bob Lancaster. "for home shoppers all down the years,
littlewoods catalogue page 1990

that has been an absolutely constant and reliable factor. There is no better value anywhere".

The striking differences between 1932 and now lie in the sheer size of the 1992 catalogue (with more than 20,000 choices) and the huge range of sophisticated equipment it carries, from computers at 499.99 and fax machines from 399.99 to video camera from 449.99, a microwave cooker at 129.99 and a water filtration system listed at 49.99.

The first catalogue's 2 gramophone has given way to a Sony Discman CD player with 20 track random music sensor, shuffle play and repeat LCD) display at 1169.99.

The task of getting goods to over 2 million agents all over the UK mainland is enormous. Littlewoods despatch more than 40 million parcels a year and 80,000 of their agents are served by the group's own home delivery service, which has more than 1,000 vans operating from 25 depots nationwide.

"THE SHOP THAT NEVER CLOSES"

Bob Lancaster, Director of Home Shopping at Littlewoods, believes home shopping has kept fully in step with the changing social and domestic requirements of consumers.

"With so many women working now, and living perhaps on the periphery of an urban centre, home shopping has proved an immensely useful and time saving way of buying practically any kind of household goods.

"And, of course, you can order wherever you have a catalogue handy... at home, in the office or at the factory bench.

There's absolutely no sales pressure and not a single penny of prior payment, since everything you are sent is 'on approval' until you say you want it.

If you decide you don't need a particular article then simply return it within the required period, at no cost".

Bob Lancaster, is convinced, too, that home shopping now crosses every socio-economic frontier and penetrates every corner of the nation -"from duke to dustman, and John O'Groat's to Lands End".

The view this months offers from from the Littlewoods catalogue and website click this link.