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"Hall & Anderson." In B. Sarkaan (ed.), Capital Book of Nostalgia, Calcutta, Capital Press, 1981,
HALL & ANDERSON
by CHRISTINE FUREDY
small shop, almost so to speak a feet of floor space. HE rise of Hall and Anderson T 'hole in the wall,' on Esplanade East. For all its spaciousness, as a 'departmental store'—the
Using empty upturned shipping efficient organization of first retail enterprise in Calcutta to
crates as countertops, they sold departments and modernity, call itself such—illustrates some
imported suitings at bargain prices. the shop was lit by gaslight. trends in the modern retail trade
To save on rent and watchman's Mr. Anderson believed of the city at the turn of the
fees they slept in the shop at night. gaslight was preferable to century. Who in Calcutta does not
Later when their business improved electric light for department know Hall and Anderson's, the
they were able to move into the old stores, the softer light being, now much-partitioned and
premises of Whiteaway, Laidlaw he argued, more flattering to subdivided building at the corner
and the merchandise. (The of Chowringhee and Park Street?
Co. (a business they were to tendency of some very Older citizens remember the shop
recently constructed compete with vigorously). from its heyday. The last manager
department stores in North of the shop, Mr. Huggett, lives in Next they purchased land and
America to use indirect buildings in the block on the corner Calcutta and is the source of some
lighting nowadays suggests a of Chowringhee and Park Street. of the following details of the
similar belief in the benefits of This property was owned by the company's history.
soft light.) sister of Sir David Ezra, the Retail businesses in Calcutta
The two partners developed were frequently founded by wealthy property and racehorse
their business to this point of owner. The Ezras, it is said, used to tradesmen who had come to
achievement by astute Calcutta as young men to serve as boast "we never sell, we only buy"
business methods, but in this case Mrs. Esmond parted assistants in established shops.
forward-looking practices and with some land and buildings. At After having paid off their passage
insistence on money or bond and gained first the store which Hall and
high quality merchandise. Anderson built was more a experience in the very different
They were innovators but did modes of retail trading of British conglomerate than a single shop.
not change merely for the sake The sides facing Chowringhee and India, two men who had worked
of change, as the gaslighting Park Street presented solid facades together would put their savings
shows. They were very but at the back was a compound into a partnership to buy an
particular in choice of stock. containing several small buildings. existing business which was
They were trend-setters in 'going cheap,' or to start a new one. Gradually the business acquired
certain aspects of the retail more adjacent properties. Numbers This is how the famous shop of
trade. For instance, they were Hall and Anderson started. Wil-8 and 10 Park Street were
the first to introduce originally used for workshops. This liam Anderson and P. N. Hall
kitchenware and ironmongery whole complex was demolished in were both employed by Calcutta's
as a department. (These goods largest drapery establishment, 1925 and the large building which
had been the monopoly of the we know today was opened in Francis, Harrison, Hathaway and
hardware shops like T. E. Co.—Hall in Accounts and October 1925, being heralded as
Thompson and Co.) "the finest departmental store in Anderson in Sales. Their
As was the case with other India". It had half a million square partnership started in 1894 in a
European retail businesses in royal families! The company had converted Calcutta, they dealt only in Hall and Anderson were quick to to a private limited company imported or custom made goods. exploit the value payable post in 1913, when an amendment Hall and Anderson, in their later which, besides allowing them to of the Indian Companies Act years, spent half the year in trade over vast distances, also made this possible. This again Europe selecting stock and came greatly reduced the risks of unpaid illustrates their entre-to Calcutta only for the cool accounts of distant customers. preneurial spirit, as the season. The shop's ads insisted Their postal department grew to be business was then able to that it stocked "the very latest very large indeed. Orders came obtain bank loans for its from the English and Continental from all parts of India and from expansion. markets." South-East Asia, Aden and Meso-The story of the decline of potamia. Of course, the value pay-Among the custom-made goods the shop is in microcosm the able system applied only within the furniture department was the story of many of the elite retail India but simplification of overseas most important. Hall and businesses. After In-money-order procedures aided Anderson used good Burmese dependence they could no external trade. To encourage their teak and Indian mahogany. Much longer import their special distance trading, 100,000 copies of of the initial making was lines and lost their the famous 600-page catalogue subcontracted to Indian distinctiveness vis-a-vis 'known as carpenters and cabinetmakers Lal Kitab' were sent out smaller businesses. Then, their with the finishing being done in every October. clientele evaporated or were the Hall and Anderson workshops. Hall and Anderson employed forced to adopt more modest The shop carried a large range of Indians but generally not as life-styles: the British colo-carpets including Indian carpets salesmen, although they stated to nists had departed and the from Benares, Kashmir, an employment committee in 1918 princes gradually lost their Mirzapore and Ellora, as well as that they purses. the usual Axminsters and were willing to train Bengalis and Today, in Calcutta not one Wiltons. Anglo-Indians. More usually, they of the old, large department The claim that the shop could recruited young men from Britain. stores survives. Their role is advise on the furnishing of 'any Mr. Huggett learned about Hall played by a congested but abode from a simple bungalow to and Anderson while working in the thriving New Market, the a prince's palace' gives hint of the carpet and furniture department of air-conditioned high-rise fact that, as was the case with all a shop in Wimbledon. He signed an complex on Theatre Road, and the elite retail businesses, Hall agreement in 1923 to go out to the resilient smaller shops in and Anderson's most valuable Calcutta and stay for at least three the thoroughfares from Burra customers were the Indian years. He stayed for ten years Bazar to Park Street. But the princely families. Mr. Huggett before even taking a holiday out of department store is a viable remembers accounts being paid in India. Mr. Huggett was in charge organization in large cities of bags of silver rupees which had to of the hardware and crockery the world and we may yet see be weighed under tight security. department until 1946 and became the foundation of a traditional He had also to contend with the manager of the store after the department store in Calcutta. tardiness in payment British partners sold the business to —0— characteristic of several of the Sahan Lai Jajodia in that year.