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I thoroughly enjoyed the programme although one or two critics were left dissappointed. My main problem with the show is the never ending adverts! Anyway, as I have said previously, I will be following the series and seeing  how similar the life and times of Mr Harry Selfridge and Mr William Henry Vokins were.

Interesting to see that Mr Selfridge was left high and dry by his financial backer, Mr Samuel Waring, he of Waring & Gillow fame, the furniture makers. In 1980 Waring and Gillow joined with the cabinet making firm Maple & Co, to become Maple, Waring and Gillow, However in his cavalier way, Harry Selfridge didn’t let this minor problem hinder him and he stormed ahead and opened his store on time.

Like Harry Selfridge, William Vokins also went into business with an equity partner. In 1882 they opened a drapery store, Leeson & Vokins  at 33 North Street, Brighton. Mr W T Leeson stayed with Mr Vokins until 1925 when the partnership was dissolved.

William Henry Vokins & Family 1912Clearly Selfridges was and is a much bigger and grander store than the Vokins store ever was or has been, but the path that these 2 entrepreneurs took have many similarities. The photograph on the right is of William Henry Vokins, his wife Emily Clara and my Grandfather Gerald Vokins taken in 1912, a couple of years after Selfridges opened.

Initially, Leeson & Vokins traded very much from hand to mouth. William Vokins travelled to London several times a week to buy merchandise for his store. This was all paid for in cash. After several months, the proprietor of the wholesaler, who was very impressed by the young Vokins’ endeavour, offered him a line of credit. This gave him the chance to buy ever more stock and reduce his costly and time consuming trips to London.

With more stock, William Vokins had to use his home for storage, something he would continue to do for many years. If he found a bargain, he would invest heavily and if there wasn’t enough room to store it at the shop, then it would be kept at home.

I think William Henry Vokins would be very pleased to know that all his hard work is continued today by his family in the form of vokins@home and Big Brand Beds.

Sadly I will have to record episode 2, but will be writing regualr updates as the series progresses. 

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