Manchester’s much-loved and lost stores that made shopping a grand experience

If there is one thing we can all agree on then it must be this – we all miss shopping.

Until we can all go out again and enjoy browsing buying to our heart’s content, let’s take a trip down memory lane and remember what stores have made shopping in Manchester a grand experience.


Stood on the corner of the infamous Picadilly Gardens, this was one of the first city’s department stores to be opened in 1877 and served the shoppers of Manchester until 2001, with the company officially closing in Liverpool in 2010.

Lewis’s was known to be one of the most luxurious department stores in Manchester (and main rival to Paulden’s), offering a variety of products for all sorts of needs. On the grand fifth floor, there was a full-size ballroom which also served as an exhibition hall. Now in its place stands Primark on Market Street, still nonetheless loved by many.

Kendal, Milne & Co

This memorable department store has just as much history as you may have memories of it. This department, which opened in 1836, was striking with its Portland limestone and stood grandly on Deansgate, and still is today. The store survived a huge fire in 1939 and the war. Throughout the years, it has been purchased by Harrods and later House of Fraser.

Some of you may remember the extravagant window displays or the great New Year’s sales – perhaps even going to see Father Christmas! One thing that made this store very popular was the access to the latest designer clothes and the latest fashion items – most memorably the 1950’s lycra inspired fashion.

Throughout the years, this store has had many expansions like having a library, hairdressers, glass and china department, and travel estate agencies, to name a few.

Although Kendal, Milne & Co may no longer be around, you can still see the name on the marble fascia above the shop’s entrance. Oh, the memories!


Although this brand had branches in other European countries prior to the UK, after upgrading to a three-storey shop in Arndale Centre in 1978 C&A quickly rose in popularity and became the go-to providers of all things fashion! Ranging from jackets to sportswear to suits and even skiing clothing, C&A not only became popular due to how unique they were but also made history by 1960 by being one of the first high-street companies to sell bikinis and miniskirts!

After 72 years of serving Manchester for its high demand fashion needs, C&A closed in 2007. Although this name may no longer be seen in Manchester, you might spot this brand or even a shop again on your travels in Europe.


Ah, Woolworths! The store that sold everything. On the corner with Oldham Street is a large Portland Stone building built-in 1928.  At the time it was the largest Woolworth’s store in Europe.

May it be toys, children’s clothes, gardening supplies, something for the shed, music or the glorious pick and mix… Woolworths served us well.

On the 8th May 1979, Woolworths went through a great blaze which is still remembered as a great catastrophic event. A damaged electrical wire in the vicinity of piled furniture started a blaze that resulted in 9 shoppers and one staff member being killed.

So significant was the fire that it resulted in the routine installation of sprinkler systems, which Woolworth’s didn’t have, in large retail stores.  It also led to changes in the material used in soft furnishings to reduce the hazards created when the stuffing was exposed to fire.

Sadly, Woolworths across the country closed by 2009 after not being able to withstand debt. We should have bought more pick and mix.


Paulden’s – another beloved department store and the direct rival of Lewis’s. Opened in the 1860s. This shop has served many of its shoppers up until it suffered in the Manchester Blitz in 1957.

Arguably, Paulden’s is one of the most revolutionary stores to have existed in Manchester. It was the first store to be fitted with electric lighting, escalators, glass plate windows, and even pioneers in the best part of shopping – direct deliveries! The original store stood where Manchester Metropolitan University’s Cambridge Hall of Residence is. Debenhams took over- which is sadly closing too.

Which store was your Manchester favourite?


*Photo credit Archives+


  1. Some personal memories of these iconic department stores. Lewis’s has 2 memories for me – seeing Father Christmas there and the incredible toy department filled with toys you knew you would never get as presents and of course the food hall with its enormous range (for a small child) of pies. Kendals was very special, as the lady who lived next door to us worked there in the perfumery department and when my Mum went there she always got free samples and a quick spritz. I can still recall at about 9 years old smelling those evocative smells that all perfumery sections have for the first time whilst with my Mum – its like a exotic mix of different fragrances and make up that hits you when you walk into any perfumery section of a department store. Later as teenager going there for the sales to look for bargains – which I found sometimes . Lastly Pauldens – I worked there one summer in the 60s during the school holidays. We were lucky to have such a choice of department stores; and there was Henrys on Market Street which before the Arndale Centre as a department store offered cheaper alternatives to Kendals and Lewis’s. Pauline Smith.

  2. Am I right in thinking that there was another Woolworths at the bottom of Market Street. There was a bomb site on the corner of Market Street and Deansgate and a Woolworths next to it.
    Also Marshall and Snelgrove next to St Anne’s Church.

  3. I have vague memories of visiting the “old” Paulden’s on Stretford Road, which closed in 1957 after a devastating fire. Two years later they reopened in the 1932 built Ryland’s Building on Market Street and in 1973 it was rebranded under the Debenhan’s name. Over the years I must have purchased more of my wardrobe there than at any other shop in Greater Manchester. It has also been a mainstay for household / electrical goods, a major source of Christmas presents and a first choice for my wife’s search for new outfits and a good place for a “cuppa” (with my Gold Card discount) and a visit to the loo. In more recent years my Debenham’s shopping has been split between Manchester and the newer branch in the Trafford Centre, which opened for a public preview the day before the rest of that complex in September 1998. Yesterday I made one of my first forays into Manchester since lock-down and took the opportunity to make a last visit to one of my favourite shops. Only the lower floors were accessible and it was very sad to see it looking like a ghost store. I really felt a pang of nostalgia and couldn’t resist a quick photo on my phone. There will no doubt be chances to return to the building in future years and there appear to be exciting plans for its future and I believe that the Debenham’s name will live on online under the Boohoo umbrella but I will miss the chance to visit the store that has been part of my Manchester experience, which I believe closes later this week.


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