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2020 Kays Archive research collections


William Kilbourne Kay founded the pioneering Kay & Co Ltd mail order catalogue company in Worcester in 1890. Kays was a major employer in Worcester until its closure in 2007.

The archive of Kay & Co Ltd, deposited by the Kays Heritage Group, is a valuable resource to researchers in cultural and social history, fashion and design, and business, economic and manufacturing history.

The collection provides insight into aspirational 20th century living, including representations of everyday people and goods and images of clothing, textiles, and household items with contemporary pricing. The archive also contains information about Kay’s manufacturing practices, Board minutes, company accounts and correspondence detailing Kays’ pioneering business model.


Scottish Textile & Manufacturing Company

In 1965, Kays’ parent company, Great Universal Stores, acquired the Scottish Textile & Manufacturing Company. The Kays Archive contains the minute books of the Scottish Textile & Manufacturing Company’s Board of Directors from the company’s registration in 1946 until its purchase.

This timeline was created as part of a work placement project by Niall Herbert, a history undergraduate, to highlight significant people and events in the company's history.

If you would like to learn more about the Scottish Textile and Manufacturing Company and its predecessor, the Scottish Co-operative Wholesale Society Ltd, you can find information from Glasgow City Libraries, The National Co-operative Archive and The National Library of ScotlandBritish Pathe videos provide some additional context for post-war Glasgow.




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  • 7 May 1946: The STMC is registered as a company
  • 20 May 1946: First meeting of the directors of the STMC takes place at 94 Commerce Street, Glasgow, which is to be the registered address of the company. In attendance are Messrs, Aitchison, Davidson, Steel, Lucas, Meyer, Douglas and Tait
    • Messrs, Aitchison, Davidson and Steel are nominees for Board of Directors from the Scottish Cooperative Wholesale Society (SCWS):
    • Mr. John Aitchison appointed Chairman; Mr. John Douglas appointed Secretary
    • George Meyer and Ronald Joseph Lucas appointed Joint Managers
    • The secretary will be the person in charge of the minutes and subsequent minute books of the STM
    • Share Capital of the STMC is £25,000
  • 14 June 1946: People in attendance are Messrs, Steel, Aitchison, Douglas, Meyer and Tait
    • It is recommended that £5,000 of share capital be called up in order to purchase 12 looms
    • The STMC has receive authorisation from the Treasury for the issue of capital (Certificate ref. 6000/01/20 dated 28 May 1946)
    • 11th July 1946: There are talks of obtaining the licence needed for 24 looms which the STMC is confident of securing
    • First 1,200 lb of material is brought from India Mills to be delivered to Falkland
  • 26 July 1946: The STMC wants an increase of capital from the original £5,000 to be increased to £7,450
  • 31 July 1946: National Bank of Scotland endorses the cheques created by the STMC
  • 27 August 1946: The first 3 looms are placed in to working order
  • 2 September 1946: The prices of materials from companies are submitted from Joint managers Lucas and Meyer. Meyer promises to draw up a copy of all financial documents he is involved with, which are to be submitted to the secretary from now on
  • 27 September 1946: Goods are placed on order (India Mills, Moorefield Spinning Mill, T. Thomson and W. Lumsden) and it is noted by Meyer that the STMC was making satisfactory progress
  • 4 November 1946: Trade production begins with 9 looms in working operation
  • 5th December 1946:  The STMC continues to grow. There is also a meeting at Morrison Street, a change from the usual offices of Commerce Street
  • 14 January 1947: Davidson resigns from SCWS because of ill health and is replaced by director Mr. Daniel Hay who is now director of the board
    • Meyer is greatly pleased with the STMC’s progress during the first 8 months, with the only set back being that the STMC had been unable to obtain the 24 looms as originally promised. However, the company does now have 10 looms in working operation
    • Share capital is increased from £7,450 to £7,900
  • 11 February 1947: Meyer notes how the STMC are finding it difficult to obtain yarn in the country. Therefore, yarn is shipped from USA at a more expensive cost
  • 11 March 1947: The transport of materials is affected because of the fuel crisis caused by the winter of 1946 -1947
    • 21 looms are now said to be in working operation
  • 15 April 1947: Sales from February were £1,810, now they had reached £3,154. Debtors in February £1,752, now in April £3,154
    • 24 looms are now working at the Falkland Line Company
    • Meyer and Lucas are extremely happy with the company’s progress, from May 1946 - March 1947 with sales of £15,641 and a profit so far of £411 for the STMC
  • 12 May 1947: Balance sheet officially ended for the first 11 months. This is approved by the chairman
  • 15 May 1947: Aitchison is reappointed chairman 
    • There are thoughts of increasing stock and production because of growing trade
  • 10 June 1947: Sales for the last 2 months had reached a staggering 72% of last years
    • There is a new practise of the secretary checking the stock with accountant once every 3 months
  • 17 June 1947: It is debated, and accepted, that Meyer on his holiday would visit weavers in Switzerland and would get a proportion of his holiday funded by the company; due to it being beneficial for the company that he establishes old trading connections 
  • 8 July 1947: 87% of the company’s product is exported with only 13% being sold on the home market. This highlights the growth of the company in a short space of time
  • 12 August 1947: It is estimated that because of an increased turnover, sale figures could be guaranteed to the end of the calendar year
  • 9 September 1947: Meyer and Lucas get a pay rise and the company are investigating the possibility of expanding through the acquisition of a factory in Germany. Lucas is being sent to inspect the condition of the factory
  • 14 October 1947: The STMC is 1 year into production and has gone from “nothing to more than 5,000 yards weekly”
    • Total sales of £35,394 for this period
    • 10 November 1947: cotton export increases from 25% to 50% by the ‘Export of Bayon Goods’
  • 9 December 1947: Chairman John Aitchison officially retires. A new Chairman/ director is to be appointed
  • 13 January 1948: Mr. G.T Nicholson is appointed director
    • Mr. Hugh M. Steel is appointed as chairman
    • Sales for 1947 reach £62,298
    • Offices at Commerce Street are under threat as SCWS have decided to sell it, the STMC inform them to notify them of any offers they receive with the view of buying the offices on a permanent basis
  • 10 February 1948: The export market continues to deteriorate with additional fears on home market trade
  • 9 March 1948: March 1947 there are sales of £15,641.  A year later sales are at £73,302
  • 13 April 1948: Meyer is pleased with what has been achieved so far this year; however, is disappointed that production did not expand at the rate the STMC anticipated
  • 18 May 1948: Exports are now declining, while home imports are increasing slightly. Furthermore, Meyer after his visit to Italy and Switzerland is concerned that long term, the company will not be able to keep up with the production capabilities of the Looms/manufacturing in Switzerland
    • Crucially, prices in Switzerland fall, while prices in Britain are still rising
  • 10 August 1948: The STMC has sold out production until Christmas. Despite prices dropping the company remain satisfied
  • 14 September 1948: Mr. Sterling is to be a substitute director of the Company while Mr. Steel is in North America
    • The STMC have now further sold out until Feb 1949; furthermore, the deposit account with the SCWS bank is increased from £12,000 to £14,000
  • 14 December 1948: Sales from March rise to £43,604
    • Director Daniel Hay retires and is replaced by Mr. Donald Dow
  • 11 January 1949: Dow is officially unveiled as Director and in the last few weeks of 1949 production of the STMC had increased 
    • There are also high hopes from the board for 1949
  • 31 January 1949: The plans to increase share proposals after being reviewed, are rejected
  • 12 April 1949: The STMC production continues to grow: 70,650 Yards in 1946/1947 rising to 385,425 Yards in 1948/1949
    • It is approved that Meyer will go on another business convention to Paris and Brussels, to keep in touch with old contacts. Once again, this visit is to be funded by the STMC
  • 25 April 1949: Trading profits has increased
  • 17 May 1949: Mr. G.T. Nicholson takes the place of Interim chairman while Mr. Steel is in Rhodesia
  • 6 June 1949 (Third Annual General Meeting): Meyer is re-elected as director of the company
  • 10 June 1949: 70% of goods are being exported with the remaining 30% going to the home market
  • 12 July 1949: There’s a worry from Meyer about indications of falling prices in the market
  • 13 September 1949: Trade on the export market is declining. In contrast, in the home markets has increased by 62,000 yards more than last year. Furthermore, there are discussions about establishing trading links with factory in Muchen Gladbach
  • 12 October 1949: Demand on the export market starts to increase again. In addition, orders on hand are 51% higher than last year
  • 13 December 1949: Mr. Hugh Steel is retiring as director and chairman of the STMC
  • 9 January 1950: Mr. Robert Taylor is appointed Director with Mr. George T. Nicholson elected as chairman
  • 21 March 1950: Meyer requests and again gets the approval for his visit to the continental trade fair. However, this time he will be accompanied by a director of the STMC
  • 18 April 1950: 1949/1950 financial year records were very satisfactory. Turnover rose by 15.25% from £60,805 to £70,136. Additionally, there was an increase in Yarn sold from 385,415yrds to 490,422yds. This is a 27% increase
  • 23 May 1950 (Fourth Annual General Meeting): financial year ends 31 March (repeats each year). Once again, like most of the previous years, the directors are each payed remuneration of £100
    • Mr. Ronald Lucas is reappointed as director of the STMC. He and Meyer are still the joint managers of the company
  • 19 June 1950: Meyer reports an increase in trading activity because of good weather and the purchase tax
  • 13 February 1951: George Meyer requests and gains his regular approval for spring journey to France, Germany and Switzerland on business terms. Once again, a company director will accompany him
  • 6 March 1951: Meyer gains approval for a journey to USA and Canada on behalf of the STMC in order to view the latest textile developments in factories
  • 17 April 1951: It is confirmed that the chairman and Meyer will be out of contact until the end of June
  • 23 July 1951: Both Lucas and Meyer are given a pay rise by the rate of £150 per annum, bringing their salaries to £1,300 and £1,650 respectively
  • 20 August 1951 (Fifth Annual General Meeting):
    • Remuneration of £200 is payed to each director of the STMC. This is an increase from the previous year when it was £100 that was payed to each director
    • Mr. G.T Nicholson is re-elected as chairman for the STMC
  • 18 December 1951: Lucas and Meyer are inquiring about the possibility of adding additional shares within the company and it is reported that Chairman Nicholson may retire at the start of the New Year
  • 15 January 1952: John. S Patterson replaces Nicholson as director, and Donald Dow replaces Nicholson as active chairman of the STMC
  • 19 February 1952: Limited changes in export and home market, except finishers announcing a minimal increase of 10%
    • Meyer is continental visits from 19th Feb – no later than 4th March
  • 29 April 1952: There is a delay in finalising the draft accounts and balance Sheets for year ending 1952
  • 28 May 1952: Meyer has approval to go to Germany for 3 days to investigate the sale of Ettrick Mill Cloth
  • 17 June 1952: Meyer in a letter requests for longer than 3 days to pursue the purchase of Ettrick Mill Cloth. The request is initially placed on hold and later approved June 28th on a vote of 3:2
  • 15 July 1952: The final details of draft balance sheet and accounts are to be called during 19th August, 1952 minutes
  • 16 July 1952: Meyer urges the company to build on business relations within Germany
  • 19 August 1952: The Company is taking legal action against ‘Silkella Limited’, London, who have “refused acceptance of contract with our company” and declined to take up goods remaining in the company’s possession
  • 16 September 1952:  The Company approve Meyer’s wishes to try and sell cloth in Germany
    • Mr. J. Cameron is made an Auditor of the company
  • 6 October 1952 (Sixth annual general meeting):  Directors are paid remunerations of £200 each
    • Mr Donald Dow is re-elected as a director of the company
  • 20 October 1952: Meyer reports back from his visit to Germany in order to try and sell cloth over there, notes that if the company want to compete in the German market that it need more ‘up-to-date designs at very competitive prices’
  • 17 November 1952: Chairman Patterson had become ‘indisposed’ on the eve of his departure for Canada and North America and consequently Donald Dow is placed as acting Chairman
  • 22 December 1952: The STMC is held into abeyance until Meyer’s report has been received. Because of ‘inter alia’ with contract with Ettrick Cloth which has said to have been concluded between the company and the SCWS
    • 1952 licensing system ended by government - Leads to ‘Meyer and Lucas v. Scottish Textiles and the SCWS


Key thoughts

  1. The company has had a successful growth in its first 6 years of operations with an increase in profit each year; despite a slow start in acquiring looms
  2. There are signs that the STM are doing well, which can be seen from the increase in remuneration payments to directors
  3. In 1952 indications of how the company grew can be drawn from the attempts to expand in the German markets
  4. The key person who is mentioned most frequently and who seems to be involved in every aspect of the company is joint managing director George Meyer. He runs a lot of the financial accounts for the company and involved in all the foreign expedition on company business
  5. There has been a lot of rotation of the position of Chairman
  6. However, and most importantly, in December 1952 the company goes into abeyance and the earliest recorded minutes after this are in November 1954

October 1954

There are several correspondences with Meyer (Lucas supporting Meyer’s view) and the secretary Douglas. All starts with Meyer requesting a copy of the minutes from last meeting, which is rejected initially by Douglas. What ensues is a series of letters between the two in which high tensions arise in the following month.

For the year ending March 1954 the STMC make a loss and not a profit of £480.


19 November 1954

Patterson is still chairman of the STMC, Douglas is still secretary and Lucas and Meyer are still joint managing directors.

The company indicates to Rayon Weaving Association of its resignation as a member.

The Secretary is instructed to write to the Manchester Chamber of Commerce after Meyer did so unauthorised defending the interests of the company. Meyer writes about the testing of cloth which has been criticised and looks to defend the STMC as he sees it as a prerogative of a joint managing director.


  • 11 January 1955: There is a lengthy meeting with the Board of directors regarding Meyer’s letter from 19th November 1954. The letter is withdrawn from the Chamber of Commerce
  • 15 March 1955: There are still tensions between Meyer and Douglas in which the board appear to favour the side of Douglas. This leads into the following months of the case of ‘Meyer and Lucas v. Scottish Textiles and the SCWS’
  • 15 November 1955: The tensions are still prevalent and ongoing between Meyer and Lucas with the secretary Douglas. Another series of letter correspondences transpires
  • 14 May 1956: There is a long detailed listing of financial records from November 1955 – May 1956
  • 15 November 1956: Business within the STMC carries on as usual; although, there are still indications of Meyer and Lucas and the company not being on the same page with regard to business and financial matters
  • 30 July 1957: No sales have been recorded in the last 7 months, with the exception of the month April 1557
    • There are further disagreements between Meyer and Douglas over the financial fees that need to be settled with other companies
  • 7 October 1958: It is announced that on 13th August 1958 that Meyer has handed in his resignation as a joint managing director of the STMC. Furthermore, it is announced that on 20th August 1958 that Lucas also hands in his resignation as a joint managing director of the STMC, both resignations are accepted by the board
  • 21 November 1958: After a letter from the SCWS the STMC will be doing a reconstruction of the board. Additionally, the company shall now be operating as a marketing company
  • 16 December 1958: Mr. J. Aitchison is elected chairman. John A. Sterling is elected secretary. The company thanks Douglas and Patterson for their work for the company over their many years of service. Mr. J. Wands continued as a manager for the company
  • 27 January 1959: The Company poses moving from their office on 94 Commerce Street to 160 Seaward Street; this action is approved
  • 10 February 1959: The STM need to pay the solicitors for the ‘Meyer/Lucas case’ ?
  • 1 September 1959: Sterling retires as secretary and is replaced by the previous secretary of the STMC Douglas, who will be active in the role from 12th September 1959
    • The STMC has moved on and is now trying to market blankets, with hotels being a key target customer
  • 10 November 1959: There are still efforts being made to gain customers and produce sample orders. The company is still aiming for clients in the hotel market
  • 9 February 1960: Mr. J Aitchison retires as chairman and is replaced by Mr. W. Wallace Ferguson
  • 12 July 1960: Sales to the hotel market have gone well and there are further hopes that sales will continue to grow
  • 8 November 1960: Printed catalogues are being designed with the help of the SCWS printing department in order to further expand trade and progress sales
  • 20 December 1960: There a talks of removing current directors and secretary due to the STMC’s future developments in mail order
  • 4 January 1961: Mr. Tom Taylor replaces Ferguson has chairman of the STMC for the calendar year
  • 24 January 1961: Mr Aitchison is replaced by Mr. G.T. Nicholson as a director of the STMC
  • 14 February 1961: 100,000 catalogues have been produced for the mail-order trade advertising a range of the company’s products, 51,000 of these catalogues are sent to branches of the SCWS
  • 13 July 1961: Sales and profits had increased impressively from the first few months of its mail order catalogue
  • 8 August 1961: There are plans for the distribution of more catalogues to boost already positive sales
  • 14 November 1961: Mr. G.T. Nicholson retires as a director and is replaced by Mr. Gavin Shearer
  • 13 February 1962: A new 320-page catalogue is planned to be completed by April 1962 with products such as footwear, drapery, and furnishing goods; however, the STMC are warned by Rutherglen Society about the infringement their new ventures in the mail order trade has on their business and the business of fellow commercial partners. Consequently, they order the STMC to cease trade in the mail order areas in which they are situated
  • 8 May 1962: The new 320-page catalogue is ready to be issued within the following fortnight
  • 28 August 1962: The sales have continued to increase and there are talks of additional schemes to further increase sales
  • 13 November 1962: The Company plan on inaugurating a national scheme for mail orders with the issuing of the new catalogue for 1st September 1963. Consequently, the company start a pilot scheme in the T.W.W (welsh region) through the medium of television
    • The company expect that when the national scheme begins that substantial profit will develop as a result
  • 18 December 1962: Mr. W.W Ferguson hands in his resignation as chairman. Mr Hugh Steel, Lundin Lea, Lundin Links, Largo, Fife are appointed directors of the STMC in place of Ferguson
  • 12 February 1963: Mr Tom Taylor is appointed chairman of the STMC
  • 6 June 1963: Due to expansion, the Company appoints two people to help run the company’s mail order operations. Mr. G. Webb as senior mail order executive and Mr. L.J. Cutler appointed in a senior administrative capacity
  • 20 August 1963: A new 420-page catalogue will be published by the end of August 1963
  • 1 October 1963: New strategy of television advertising is a success and the STMC are keen to further improve and boost sales 
  • 22 October 1963: The STMC appoints Mr. G.C. Grangle as outside sales manager. The television advertising had proved to a success, but it is seen as a costly method in obtaining agents needed for the STK. It was hoped that the appointment of Grangle would boost sales at less and save money
  • 19 November 1963: The sudden death of director Mr. Hugh. M. Steel is noted with ”deep regret”
  • 25 November 1963: Mr. David Izatt is appointed a director of the STMC in the place of Mr Robert W. Benzie who died on 9th September 1963
  • 3 December 1963: The STMC appoints a warehouse supervisor because of the increase in staff within the warehouse
  • 21 January 1964:  John. S Grieg appointed as a director of the company in place of Mr. T Taylor. Furthermore, Mr. George E. Gay is appointed chairman following the resignation of Mr. T. Taylor
    • Indications from the STMC statistics indicate that the company are producing good quality products. This conclusion has been drawn up by the company by the extremely low level of products which have been returned from customers
  • 18 February 1964: A new spring catalogue is to be launched in 4 weeks
  • 24 February 1964: Mr Ronald Hall is appointed a director of the STMC in the place of Mr. Hugh M. Steel who died 16th November 1963
  • 2 March 1964: There is a clearing out of debts in the STMC in relation to mail order trade. This clearance of debts is viewed as a ‘regular occurrence.’
  • 17 March 1964: Sales did remain high for the month of March
    • Mr. G.C. Grangle resigns as outside sales manager of the STMC
  • 21 April 1964: After successful advertising and the producing of catalogues, trade in the mail order section has increased dramatically
    • Mrs. Youngman is appointed as the new outside sales manager for the STMC
  • 5 May 1964: Draft accounts and balance sheets that ended 31st December 1963 are to be sent to the auditors for auditing
  • 27 May 1964: ‘Singer Sewing Company Limited’ inquiries about whether or not the STMC is up for sale or failing that whether a financial interest could be secured. At the least, ‘Singer Sewing Company Limited’ ask whether a trading relationship could be established between the two companies. The STMC inform ‘Singer Sewing Company Limited’ they are prepared to pursue the matter
    • Furthermore, the company proceed with making of the autumn-winter catalogue with the Park Advertising Company
  • 2 June 1964: Mr Cutler, who is employed a senior administrative capacity at the STMC gets appointed with an assistant in the form of Mr. W. Larkin
  • 11 June 1964: The STMC has to arrange an overdraft of £20,000 with the SCWS bank in order to meet wages and other costs
  • 10 July 1964: ‘Singer Sewing Company Limited’ is no longer interested in the proposed project from 27 May 1964
  • 1 September 1964: There has been satisfactory progress of sales from the Autumn/Winter catalogue and it is hoped that sales would increase even more
  • 6 October 1964: Sales did remain positive and the STMC state they are in a ‘excellent’ condition should there been an even greater increase in sales
    • The plans for the Spring/Summer catalogue for 1965 remain on course
  • 16 October 1964: The wages of the company are now being paid by cheque
  • 27 October 1964: Contact is made by ‘S.G. Warburg and Co. Ltd’ about the possibilities of acquiring the mail order side of the STMC  inform ‘S.G. Warburg and Co. Ltd’ that they are prepared to enter negotiations ‘to discuss all aspects of the Company’s affairs’ 
  • 3 November 1964: The printing department for the STMC is well ahead for the spring/summer Catalogue 1965. Additionally, sales in ladies fashion are the STMC’s largest seller
  • 15 December 1964: Mr. George R. Gay resigns as a director and chairman. Mr. John Aitchison takes his place as director and Mr. David Izatt is appointed chairman
  • 2 February 1965: The sales for the first 3 weeks of the year were viewed as ‘much better than had been anticipated.’
  • 2 March 1965:  The STMC applies for a wine and spirits licence in the mail order section in order to keep up with the competition that sells wine and spirits already
  • 5 April 1965: The Company miss the deadline for the application of a license to sell wines and spirits. They are told it would now not be till October 1965 till the proposal would be considered. The company continue to investigate the matter
    • Furthermore, the STMC grant the authority for the purchase of a mini-van in order to collect mail from the general post office 3-4 times a day. The van will transport orders and other correspondences after they have been processed through the agency
  • 4 May 1965: The sales from this time last year have increased drastically at just under 200% and the company now feel they have established themselves in the mail order market. The company plan on taking steps to further increase the strength of the agency
  • 3 August 1965: The STMC is granted an application from the licensing agencies in which if they sign they will be given an off-sales licence for the mail order scheme
  • 15 October 1965: Discussions are ongoing with ‘a certain company’ regarding the sale of the mail section of the STMC
  • 29 October 1965: The negotiations with ‘a certain company’ regarding the sale of the mail section of the STMC have now progressed and both companies have come to an agreement
  • 7 December 1965: There is a report from the manager indicating the various aspects of the STMC which will be affected by the takeover
  • 17 December 1965: The STMC that is taking over the mail order section is ‘G.U.S’. Otherwise known as ‘Great Universal Stores’
  • 21 December 1965: The ‘Articles of Association’ of the STMC are rewritten
  • 28 December 1965: Is the last recorded minutes of the company



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