started issuing catalogue a month with b/w illustrations - moved to larger premises at Lavender Hill, Wandsworth

War work

Colour photography introduced into the catalogues

Largest UK mail order company with 30,000 agents

Labour saving devices now sold in the catalogue and Freemans made into private company

Bombed and records destroyed - rationing coupons only currency for clothes

Boom years, bigger catalogue, wider range and credit advantage over shops

Floated on stock market



Automated Distribution Centre at Ivatt Way, Westwood, Peterborough opened

New telephone ordering service for agents

An overhead conveyer bridge measuring 450ft links to Post Office Sorting Office

Postal workers go on strike from 20 January until 8 March. No parcels for seven weeks. As the strike ends, 100 temporary workers taken on and 476,100 parcels are dispatched during the first week Two freak storms cause warehouse flooding. Staff involved are given wellington boots

First International Business Machine (IBM) at the end of the year as the conversion from Leo computers gets underway

New logo launched – over 400 members of staff respond to the different ideas

Staff use torches and work longer shifts to make the most of daylight hours as the three-day week continues. Men deliver goods by trolley to the workstations as the conveyor belts are still

The conversion from Leo computers to new IBM machines continues European Community Directive re Equal Pay

A job satisfaction survey achieved a 70% return rate, although union at Peterborough decided not to cooperate The twice-yearly catalogues are distributed from Peterborough – 430,000 catalogues pass through packers hands

Fireman’s strike leads to 50 further fire wardens recruited and fire extinguishers increased from 250 to 400. Two extra fire patrol men were on duty in working hours

The evening shift is extended to cover Picking and Packing as business booms. Returns already operating an evening shift

TFreemans is the first mail order company to introduce a telephone ordering system for agents Over 70% of orders are received by this system A Mezzanine and High Bay area adds a further 24,000 sq ft and increases capacity by 20%


The site now covers an area equal to 12 full size football pitches and bicycles are used by staff who need to get around the warehouse

Innovative incinerator – system fuelled by warehouse waste dramatically reduces heating costs Visual Display Units (VDU) are introduced to the Returns department, enabling undamaged goods to be back on the shelves within four hours UK taken to the European Court of Justice for failing to meet its Treaty obligations to implement the Equal Pay Directive

Agents are predominantly young married women with children of school age who buy for their own families and a few friends. They receive 10% commission

Youth Training Scheme introduced. The scheme provided on-the-job training for school leavers and was managed by the Manpower Services Commission The Equal Pay (Amendment) Regulations 1983 – equal pay now based on work of equal value, albeit the work is dissimilar

Rene Pickstone sends away for booklet on Equal Pay. Sid Simms sends 5 applications for equal pay on the same level as a checker warehouseman (Goods in)

Launched direct mail ‘Specialogues’ The warehouse handles up to 900,000 items each week during peak times and has 5.5 miles of conveyors

A new five minute commercial goes on air to promote the BYMAL catalogue, presented by Jeff Banks and one of the longest commercials in television history Freemans Five appeal to Employment Tribunal but dismissed because “Community Law cannot be applied where the issue can be determined by National Law”. They appeal again

Answer Line is added to telephone services with the aim of solving most agents queries on the spot Freemans is rated top for delivery speed for three consecutive years (85 -87) in annual surveys of 18,000 households undertaken by Audits of Great Britain Freemans Five appear at The Royal Courts of Justice, who pass to the House of Lords

Freemans bought by Sears PLC and a number of High Street brands including, Miss Selfridge, Wallis, Warehouse, Richards and Adams are added to the catalogue Postal strikes cause havoc. Freemans threaten to find alternative methods to dispatch customers parcels if strikes continue House of Lords finds in women’s favour and refers it back to Tribunal

LA Saturday shift is introduced and Courier network delivery established


Televisions placed in the canteen so that staff can watch the world cup

An emergency service is launched for agents. Washing machines, televisions and fridge freezer can be replaced within three days by calling the special emergency number Freemans forged links with Peterborough United Provided the team with travelling outfits and televisions for the executive boxes Jan Allies launch Operation Desert Storm

Consultation with staff takes place via recognised trade unions through joint consultative committees

A three year plan is developed to upgrade the operating systems and improve overall efficiency in the warehouse

Freemans produce an interactive CD for customers which win several awards

The International Division wins ‘The Queens Award for Export Achievement’

Freemans enters a marketing partnership with the National Lottery enabling them to trade as an official partner and use the lottery ‘fingers’ logo Freemans sponsor the South Stand at Peterborough United Football Club

Shopping website freemans.com is launched Monopolies and Mergers Commission Board of Trade block Littlewoods PLC from taking over

Annual Report states “The Group had a disappointing year in a difficult trading climate”

New venture with Debenhams to create Debenhams Direct as additional catalogue Sears sells Freemans to January Investments Ltd, headed by Philip Green and backed by the Barclay Brothers. Freemans sold to Otto Versand group

Freemans Gratton Holdings emerges as a result of Freemans and Grattan (under Otto UK) administration divisions joining together Donates £10,000 on behalf of all employees to ‘Tree Aid Africa’ to plant trees in public places in Burkina Faso and help replenish raw materials which it uses as a business

No dividend declared or paid

Loss reduced from £22m to £1.8m. No dividend declared

Social Club closed (now recording studio)

Loss of 500 jobs as part of warehouse operations are moved to Bradford

Credit and debit cards accepted

The element of debt which is not collected by the company is now sold to external debt collection businesses

Recovery of £46m in overpaid VAT plus interest of £59m resulting in profit of £91.4m. No dividend paid (8th year in succession)

Loss of £37m. Decision to streamline business processes and close Peterborough site as not owned but still leased from the City Council. No dividend

Freemans closes with the loss of 500 jobs