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Universal Stores

Universal Stores was a Manchester retail business founded at the turn of the last century by Abraham, Jack and George Rose. By 1917 Universal Stores were registered as a limited company and sold a wide range of consumer goods. In the 1920's the business began using mail order catalogues instead of newspaper ads, the catalogues were as large as 100 pages with generally one product Great Universal Stores catalogue cover per page. Universal Stores grew rapidly towards the end of the 1920's and in 1930 added the word "great" to it's title. Great Universal Stores or GUS as it also known went public in 1931.


One of the major reasons for the companies continued growth over the next 50 years was the appointment of Isaac Wolfson as managing director. He oversaw the rise of Great Universal as one the largest home shopping retailers in Europe until his retirement in 1987. In 1937 he bought a majority of Kays catalogue shareholding to add to the Great Universal mail order business.


Following the aquisition of Argos in 1998 and the rebranding to GUS plc in 2001, the home shopping part of the business was sold to the Barclay brothers in 2004. The Barclay brothers had recently bought the Shop Direct and Littlewoods catalogue empires and wanted to add Great Universal to the portfolio. This sale saw GUS's complete departure from the mail-order business.


  • 1900 - Founded by the Rose brothers
  • 1930 - Changes name to Great Universal Stores
  • 1932 - Isaac Wolfson made Managing Director
  • 1937 - Kays catalogue bought
  • 1956 - Clothing retailer Burbery added to group
  • 1998 - Argos bought
  • 2001 - Changes name to GUS pls
  • 2004 - GUS sells home shopping business to Barclay brothers
  • 2005 - Demerger of Burbery