From small beginnings we’ve come a long way. Here are a few key dates in our history…

1859 - 1990

1859
James David Williams started work running three mobile shops and a growing mail order trade.

1884
The J D Williams' business had grown and moved to premises in Watling Street, Manchester. Meanwhile, George Oxendale had opened a drapers shop in Northallerton which quietly grew until he died and left the business to his grandson, who instigated the expansion of the company.

1902
Oxendales had grown considerably and their first advertisement appeared in the press.

1907
Oxendales prospered and built Granby House (still standing in Granby Row, Manchester today).

1921
J D Williams became a private company to take over from the original founded in 1875.

1963
All Williams’ family shares were bought by Cooper-Taymil Ltd (a subsidiary of Alliance Brothers Ltd.).

1969
The company acquired Ambrose Wilson, a fashion catalogue brand.

1970
N Brown Group acquired J D Williams shares.

1990
Spring saw the launch of Fashion World, aimed to attract the younger 30 - 45 section of the market.

1990 - 2000

1994
As a direct response to a survey of the shape of modern women, Classic Combination was launched for the women aged 30 - 50, concentrating on clothes that fit well.

1996
Sartor was acquired - to focus on value for money ladies' clothing for the over 60s.

1999
Simply Be was launched to complement the established younger catalogues of Fashion World and Classic Combination by offering an affordable range of ladieswear in larger sizes.

2000 - 2010

2001
The Group expanded to provide household and electrical product ranges, aided by the launch of the Home Essentials and Inspirational Homes publications.

2002
Simply Yours was launched to offer a wide range of contemporary fashion lingerie for women in the mid-life age range.

Martin House opened in Summer 2002 – a state of the art 1500 seat call centre in the heart of Manchester.

2004
The company moved from its long-established Head Office base at Dale Street, to a modern freehold office environment at nearby Griffin House in Manchester city centre.

In November House of Bath was acquired, a specialist catalogue business offering innovative product solutions for our older customer base.

2006
Gray & Osbourn was acquired in June 2006 to compliment the Group's upmarket fifty-plus customer segment.

2007
In December, womenswear business Nightingales was acquired.

2009
The business continues to evolve and is no longer "just" a catalogue specialist, but a true multi-channel retailer with strong e-commerce presence.

In September 2009, N Brown Group acquired High and Mighty, a big and tall menswear specialist.

Having traded successfully in Ireland for many years, in February 2009 the Group made its first steps into mainland Europe, with the launch of Simply Be in Germany. This comprised a German language catalogue and transactional website. Additionally a trial began with a version of the UK Simply Be website, but priced in Euros, to several European countries.

2010
In June 2010, we became the UK's largest online lingerie retailer overnight when we acquired Figleaves.com, providing an unmatched range of underwear, whatever our customers’ size or shape.

Building on the success of Simply Be in the UK and Europe we launched the brand in the USA as part of our International expansion strategy.

2010 - Present

2011
The first Simply Be stores were launched in Liverpool and Bury.

2012
After 49 years, Lord Alliance of Manchester CBI stepped down as Chairman, but remains a major shareholder and board director. Andrew Higginson joined as Chairman in September. After 25 years with the business we also announced the retirement of Chief Executive Alan White.

2013
Angela Spindler joined as Chief Executive in July and later that year unveiled her vision for the Group, with a focus on building three power brands, JD Williams, Simply Be and Jacamo, and investing in and modernising the business.

2014
As part of the vision to create a digital first business we commenced our business transformation project – Fit 4 the Future.

In order to support our growing volumes we started our extension project at our main Warehouse in Shaw.

2015
In March we outsourced the majority of our Call Centre operations to Serco in order to improve the flexibility of our business.

In May our new CFO Craig Lovelace joined, replacing Dean Moore who was with the business for 11 years.