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In 1976, Brent Cross Shopping Centre opened for business with Fenwick as its lead department store. Today - Wednesday 2nd March - marks the now-iconic store’s fortieth birthday, so what better way to celebrate than look back over its ground-breaking history and read some of the Fenwick staff’s favourite memories. Oh, and stay tuned to find out what we’re doing in-store to celebrate...

The out of town store that's out of this world

Revolutionising the way people shopped in Britain, Brent Cross was the first out of town shopping centre in Europe. Basing its model off of the successful shopping malls in the U.S, the Fenwick team worked with an American consultant to design the store both inside and out –  it was one of the first open-planned stores in the UK, with brand new fixtures that allowed customers to see right across the store. The centre also introduced free parking and Fenwick pushed for later opening hours in the evening.

Out with the old, in with the new

Despite some negativity in The Press who deemed this new way of shopping ‘high risk’, the public reaction to the store’s launch was extraordinary and surpassed expectations. With a range of international suppliers and designers from New York that had a big influence on fashion at the time, the store was able to provide products you wouldn’t ordinarily find on London’s high street.

Window on the world

Fenwick was the first store that provided in-store catering in the shopping centre; its ‘Window of the World’ restaurant located on level 3 looked out over Hendon Way and was bustling with people from day one. The restaurant hosted a dinner shortly after opening to retail executives and those involved in the project showcasing the successful new way of approaching retail.

Hot off the press

The Fenwick store made a point of showcasing their popular fashion and beauty brands, promoting their exclusive offers in the local and national newspapers of the time – we love these ones from the archives!

“We all agree that Fenwick is the star turn. Hankies flutter like flowers on the accessories counter – tights are laid out in bands of colour and cheerful swimwear section, splendid knits. Upstairs causals and shirts share a slot with Dior’s elegant grey and navy knits… I gravitate towards the craft department all brilliant tapestry walls and bamboo bag handles and into the cook shop with its sculpted pottery fish dishes.” - Evening Standard, 1976

Our Fabulous Staff

It was easy to attract staff thanks to the centre’s close proximity to residential areas in and around London at the time, such as St Albans, which Fenwick provided transport for. Here are just a few of the fantastic team members who have worked at Fenwick Brent Cross over the years...

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“I started working at Fenwick in 2000 in the Menswear department. My favourite memory of working here is meeting the love of my life. We got married 13 years later and are still very happy to together.” - Evelyn Spencer, Fenwick employee since 2000

“After I had my two children I wanted to get back to work so worked as a Sales Assistant on Saturdays at my local Fenwick store. Since then, I have been promoted to Buyer of the Baby department then worked on Childresnwear for 17 years followed by Gift Buyer for another 6 years. I’m now back to part-time sales to spend time with my grandchildren so have done full circle!” – Judith Rose, Fenwick employee since 1976

“What makes Fenwick special is that it’s a big family! Working in the Food Hall, my favourite memory has to be meeting the England football team (when they played at Wembley) in the early ‘80s.” – Micky Ghela, Fenwick employee since 1978

 Meet illustrator Eleni Sofroniou

To celebrate Fenwick Brent Cross’ official 40th birthday, we enlisted fashion illustrator Eleni Sofroniou to re-imagine the 1970s Fenwick shopper for today. We caught up with the London-based talent to talk about her fabulous designs, how she got into fashion illustraiton and more. Read the full interview here...

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