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A restful day on the golf course with his brother Cecil lead John to wonder, did he earn his success or was it all a fluke? By this point, he was 35 years old, a millionaire, and Chairman of a stable, successful business. It was time for him to branch out, so in 1932 he decided to establish Littlewoods Mail Order – at the height of the Depression no less.  On recommendation from a colleague, John utilised his pre-existing contacts obtained through the pools business to ask customers whether they wanted a mail order for cash or club system - an early example of consumer questionnaires and market research, demonstrating his pioneering and listening abilities. When the results rolled in, they overwhelmingly favoured the ‘twenty-week-club' idea where members would contribute one or two shillings a week, the organiser would arrange an order of goods to the same value and members would draw lots to decide who received the gifts in what order.

This led to them being affectionately known as ‘turn clubs’. After extensive background research into his competitors and cogent guidance from his family, John took his orders directly to manufacturers in Leeds and Arthur (his younger brother) oversaw catalogue illustration. Similar to the early years of the Pools business, Mail Order was nurtured by the Moores family, and by the end of their second year turnover had risen fourfold to £400,000. It wasn’t a fluke after all... another business flourishing meant another new adventure was on the horizon. Only this new venture was not as innovative as the last and they would be up against some stiff competition, namely chain stores.


At the time Woolworths and Marks & Spencer dominated the market. It seems this deterred Cecil, but John and his fervent self-belief were indomitable. In 1937 four Littlewoods retail stores were opened – Blackpool, Birmingham, Brixton and London’s Oxford Street. The following year, another twelve, the year after that, another nine. In a short space of time, Littlewoods became a high street giant and household name, so much so that they survived the War and would establish 120 stores, a long-term goal of Sir John’s, three years before his death in 1993.   

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