Manchester – A City of Shops

Founded during the national lockdown in 2020, at Brothers & Sisters we believe that independent shops, boutiques and unique retailers are integral to defining our city. Here we look back at the rich history of shops in Manchester. Words by Eddy Rhead.

Cliches are cliches for a reason and the idea that Manchester has a productive and creative attitude may be a cliche but it’s born out of a history of dynamic entrepreneurialism and unorthodox thinking.

As Manchester grew at a bewildering rate during the Industrial Revolution, so did its retail sector. The growing wealth of Manchester’s new middle class and a Victorian society that became more consumer focussed ensured that Manchester’s streets were soon lined with a huge variety of shops.

Marks & Spencer opened their first Penny Bazaar store in Manchester and their first HQ was here too. Manchester became home to not only grand department stores like Kendals, Milne & Faulkner, Lewis’s, Affleck & Brown and Pauldens but a dizzying array of small independent retailers.

Into the 20th Century, whilst Manchester’s fortunes ebbed and flowed so did its shopping experience. The coming of the Arndale Centre gave home to large ‘high street’ retailers whilst small independents thrived in places like the Corn Exchange, the Royal Exchange and, of course, Afflecks Palace.

Fast forward to the 21st Century and the city, and retail, has changed again. Investment in the Northern Quarter, the growth of buzzing markets and local high streets in the south of the city and, of course, the internet have allowed Mancunians to show their creative talent once again and ply their trade to a world wide audience.

Brothers & Sisters celebrates not only the products and wares the people of Manchester have to offer but also the spirit of the city itself.

Discover the best independent shops in Greater Manchester and explore their online stores with Brothers & Sisters.

Marks & Spencer Staff, Manchester 1888 (Source: my
Eight Day began in 1970 above a boutique on the now demolished New Brown Street in Manchester City Centre.
Corn Exchange, December 1980
Many of the shops were temporary structures on the trading floor of the exchange. After being heavily damaged by the 1996 bomb many of these businesses moved to new premises (Source: Wikipedia. Photo: Manchester Evening News)
Affleck’s Palace first opened in 1982 by James and Elaine Walsh with an ethos of offering a safe environment for entrepreneurs to start out with affordable rent and no long-term contracts. (Source: Wikipedia. Photo credit: Afflecks Palace.
Pop Boutique, Oldham Street, Northern Quarter, the first permanent shop was opened in Affleck’s Palace in 1985.
Vinyl Exchange opened in Manchester in 1988 and is now the largest seller and buyer of rare and second-hand CDs, records and DVDs in the north-west of England, with an increasing global presence through their website.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s