A Century in Ilfracombe – Pedlar’s Department Store

Whether it’s a suit for that fancy wedding you’ve been invited to, or a quality cookware set to last the happy couple’s lifetime, Ilfracombe’s family-owned department store, Chas N. Pedlar, will provide everything you will need to attend the right occasion, even down to the bow tie and cufflinks.

Everything is sold with the same personalized service that Ilfracombers have taken for granted for a century. During this century, Pedlar’s has become an institution in the city since its opening on January 1, 1922.

Unlike giants Debenhams and John Lewis, who both blame online shopping for the drop in footfall at their city center stores, Pedlar’s has retained a loyal following. Like all retail stores, it weathered the tough post-Brexit and Covid trading conditions, the worst in forty years.

Large hawker store
– Credit: Dave Griffin

Pedlar’s has established itself in the very heart of the High Street; it’s a homeowner’s paradise, offering a staggering variety of home and garden gadgets and tools. From toasters and creosote omelettes to preserving garden fences, the selection of household items on offer, both in the store and on its website, is impressive, and if the item you want n not in stock, Pedlar’s will order it for you.

At its doorstep we find trays of bedding plants, seed potatoes, planters, and all the gardening paraphernalia required by both serious Monty Don disciples and weekend hobbyists. Who isn’t happy to fill a grow bag for a nice harvest of juicy tomatoes? Local estate holders also depend on farmyard manure from the store to ensure their Pentland Javelins get off to a good start. And don’t forget your watering cans, growing tools and hoses.

Did someone say: “fork handles?” Fork handles? Pedlar’s has them too – just ask. Home chefs will salivate at display cases filled with kitchen equipment for both the budding Jamie Oliver and the reluctant cook whose foray into haute cuisine is limited to a toasted sandwich. Air fryers, pressure cookers and pots, and even cutlery and crockery with which to eat the inspired creation, all are on display in Ilfracombe’s glorious emporium.

Whether at home or on vacation, Pedlar’s has you covered. Going on a cruise? You’ll need a smart suit to dine at the captain’s table, and a smart striped jacket, perhaps, to parade along the sunny deck and impress the ladies, maybe a straw hat too. Don’t forget to add an electric razor to the list. The back of the Pedlar store has a traditional outfitting section. with gloves, underwear and socks. Mr Nick Pedlar believes quality and style never go out of fashion, and the gentlemen of Ilfracombe need not travel to Exeter to kit themselves out in smart menswear. Are they served? Yes, and with the old-fashioned attention lost in large clothing stores.

Charles N. Pedlar began trading on January 1, 1922. He had arrived in Ilfracombe in 1897 and, while apprenticed in porcelain, lived above the old Handyman’s Supplier at the corner of Church Street and Wilder Road . Charles was employed to sell china in premises which would later bear his own name, next to Pugsley’s, a furniture and general goods store.

Having acquired his store in 1921, Chas Pedlar continued to sell mainly china until nearby Pugsley closed in 1933 when he combined the range of the two stores, adding furniture, hardware and clothing for men to his. He remained involved until his death in 1963, at the age of 83.

Large hawker store

Large hawker store
– Credit: Dave Griffin

Throughout his life, Charles has insisted that quality and service are the enduring principles that build customer loyalty. His son, Glanville, was born in 1915 above the store, taking over in 1946 when his father retired. Ownership eventually passed to Nick Pedlar, now one of Ilfracombe’s best known traders. Nick had taken on a management role in the business in 1964 after working for three years as a tailor at the Dingle department store in Plymouth, before continuing his training at Simpson’s of Piccadilly in London, still a world leader in bespoke clothing for men.

In 1962, the Home Hardware wholesale dealer was formed by a group of five retailers, including Peter Slee of Braunton and Eric Blanchard of Bideford. Later joined by Nick Pedlar in 1964, they co-founded the company which quickly expanded throughout the West Country. Home Hardware has grown into the UK’s largest independent hardware buying group, focusing on a local, friendly and specialist shop atmosphere.

The philosophy works, and shoppers find it preferable to the impersonal checkout experience found in huge DIY sheds. I saw the buyer of a bottle of drain cleaner at Pedlar’s explain the best and safest way to use it.

At the heart of Pedlar’s business principles is the need to adapt to the times and meet the daily needs of generations of customers. Over the decades, including the years blighted by World War II, the Ilfracombers have relied on the store for purchases as small as a can of oil to silence a squeaky door or a smart suit for maintenance. hiring.

Now more than ever, it’s vital to preserve local stores by buying locally, and the relationship is paying off. A few years ago, I was given a trilby hat from Pedlar’s for Christmas. Its sale was accompanied by the offer of steam cleaning and spackling when necessary. Hats were a staple feature of men’s outerwear in the post-war years and are gradually making a comeback. Indiana Jones famously sparked demand for fedoras, as the Blues Brothers always do.

Recent years have seen dramatic changes in menswear, with an emphasis on casual wear, especially during times of lockdown and working from home. As office life returns, Nick Pedlar expects a post-covid resurgence of more formal wear and lamented that so few white shirts are now made in the UK. In 2021, guests who wanted one for a wedding or funeral were disappointed. Shipment of Double 2 manufacturer plain white shirts from Bangladesh sold out upon arrival.

The past two years have been catastrophic for retailers, but those selling essential items have quickly adapted to coronavirus measures, as has Pedlar’s. Throughout the darkest days of the pandemic, a special order counter was set up at its entrance, with staff making between 30 and 40 same-day home deliveries.

As we emerge from this heartbreaking episode, the store is enjoying a record year for sales. Loyal customers who have moved from the district still return from as far away as Bideford and South Molton.

Nick remains a familiar and lovable daily presence. Outside of opening hours, he was a member of the Ilfracombe Round Table and the Rotary Club for 20 and 35 years respectively, and for 42 years was choirmaster at Holy Trinity Church. His daughter Helen has played a key role in keeping Pedlar’s as reliable and relevant to Ilfracombe households as it was a hundred years ago. Four candles? They are on the right side.

The Gazette Man in Ilfracombe, Dave Griffin

The Gazette Man in Ilfracombe, Dave Griffin
– Credit: Assessed