LOOKING BACK: M&S Hamilton and buzz of iconic store opening in the town

It was in March 1967 when news broke that M&S would set up their first ever Lanarkshire store.

The announcement ended years of speculation that ‘St Michael’ would eventually enter Hamilton ‘s shopping paradise, as it was then known, alongside Woolworths.

The Regent Way shopping centre store was part of the town’s £2m shopping precinct which was built throughout the 60s by Edinburgh company Argyle Securities Ltd – whose director told the Hamilton Advertiser at the time that it “would be one of Marks and Spencer’s biggest provincial shops”.

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He also said that being Lanarkshire’s only M&S store, it would “be a magnet for other shopkeepers”.

Work had begun on a 40,000 sq. ft. shop for M&S, and the Woolworth project.

The shops were to be at opposite ends of the precinct in the centre of the town.

LOOKING BACK: M&S Hamilton and buzz of iconic store opening in the town
The opening of M&S in Hamilton was keenly anticipated in 1968

The precinct was built to be traffic free and was originally planned to be roofed.

However, it was felt that this would create draught problems so shops ended up having canopies instead.

Big plans to expand Hamilton’s shopping district were fast-coming and it was calculated that approximately 100,000 members of the public would serve as the town’s shopping population; this figure expecting to double in the 1970s.

The building had come to a halt after completion of 24 single-unit shops at the Regent Street end, but they had been waiting for M&S plans to be approved before continuing.

LOOKING BACK: M&S Hamilton and buzz of iconic store opening in the town
Mr Richard Ager Harris was the first manager of M&S Hamilton

Little over a year later, M&S opened its doors in Hamilton town centre for the first time on October 10, 1968.

The grand opening was keenly anticipated for months by locals and many wanted to be part of the M&S brand.

Over 700 people applied to work in the Hamilton store, but only 71 sales assistants were hired. Those picked were whittled from 250 interviews.

LOOKING BACK: M&S Hamilton and buzz of iconic store opening in the town
Coverage by the Hamilton Advertiser introduced some of the first employees to work at M&S

Staff training was carried out in Glasgow’s Argyle Street store before the Duke Street shop finally opened.

Mr Richard Ager Harris was appointed as the first manager of Hamilton’s M&S.

He was 35-years-old at the time, making the move from deputy manager at Edinburgh’s store.

Upon opening, the Hamilton Advertiser featured a five-page special introducing the famous brand to the town, as well as some of the locals now employed by M&S.

It was big news!

And that week’s edition was one of the biggest ever produced.

The shop’s content boasted some of the fantastic facilities M&S had to offer including care for staff such as hair salons for its workers.

And as the local shopping sector grew, the next big name to open after M&S was former supermarket Safeway which was located nearby.

Also included in news coverage in October 1968 was an introduction to some of the first ever workers to be employed at the Hamilton shop- all of whom were pictured with their specific duties in the store – from warehouse men to sales assistants in children’s knitwear.

M&S changed the shopping landscape in Hamilton, proving to be the cornerstone for more big names to join the buzz in the town centre.

The store has served the community for 53 years, and like previous fallen firms such as Bairds, M&S was another landmark in Hamilton during its heyday – but now it follows in what looks to be another major blow to the high street.

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