Shopping in Bognor – Everything Including Bonmarche
The United Kingdom is filled with wonderful things to see and do. One of those is Bobby’s in Bognor, which has seen its fair share of changes. In fact, today’ it is a Bonmarche!
Once upon a time, the Bognor high street was home to a store known as “Staley’s”, which was owned by George W. Staley, and opened in 1888. Staley, a ladies’ outfitter, milliner, and general draper ran his store with love for 45 years. The shop was unique for its huge selection of readymade outfits, and for its quality. But of particular interest is that Staley’s was a pioneer in the fact that he believed in advertisement and advice. The store was advertised all over Bognor, and people flocked to him for advice on how to best use fabrics, for instance. Not just that, he was also one of the first to come up with the concept of sales, and to advertise this all over the town.
Staley’s business acumen was such that he was soon able to open a larger store, moving from 25 High Street to 1-2 London Road, just across the road. This happened on March 5, 1914. This building, today, is the Bonmache. Before that, however, it was also home to Camden House, which was a popular teahouse where ladies would have lunch and children would have their treats after Sunday school.
Camden House itself was demolished, however, giving home to the shops that are now seen on London Road. As a result of this, however, the street had to be completely renumbered. Those who visit Bonmarche today can still see evidence of this. For instance, the entire street has a single roofline.
In 1959, Staley’s had been in business for long enough, and the store was sold to Mr FJ Bobby, another fashion expert. Staley, as always, had properly advertised his premise and Bobby immediately expressed an interest. Bobby, meanwhile, is the Bobby Group’s founder’s grandson, and Bobby Group eventually became part of the Debenhams Group! Meanwhile, Bobby opened his store in June 1959, continuing Saley’s idea of serving Bognor Regis’ residents.
Many people still remember Bobby’s, mainly for its overhead canisters through which money was sent to the cashier, before being sent by with change and receipt. The store was modernized in the late 1970s, when a staircase was added and a chimney stack was removed. For years, Bobby’s continued to be the go to place, with many people feeling as if Staley never left, his influence still being apparent in the embracing of modern technology and tools, but equally the old fashioned charm of building personal relationships with customers, and offering the things that people actually need.
Business continued strongly for many years. However, needs change, as do the expectations of us, as consumers. As a result, the aims and standards of the likes of Staley and Bobby have changed over the years. However, the town center of Bognor Regis still speaks of this beautiful history, of placing its community first and looking at the needs of its residents. Yes, there are some out of town malls and complexes where people can – and do – shop, but the charm of the town center will always remain. And Bonmarche, although a chain store, is living up to this. So much so, in fact, that they took the original tiles of Staley’s, which were still there, and donated those to the Bognor Regis Museum. This museum, meanwhile, is ran entirely by volunteers and showcases the fascinating story of Bognor Regis, including the story of Chatham House, Staley, Bobby, and much more.