Jenners used to be the oldest independent department store in the United Kingdom and was long family-run, but was recently brought under the ownership of House of Fraser. It has maintained its original position on Princes Street since 1838. It contains over 100 different departments selling a large variety of goods.
Known as the "Harrods of the North", it has held a Royal Warrant since 1911, and was visited by Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of its 150th anniversary in 1988. In recent years (2004) it changed its vision statement from its goal to "be the most exciting department store outside of London" to "Confidently Independent".
Charles Kennington and Charles Jenner came from the south to work as drapers in Leith Walk, Edinburgh. They asked for a day off to attend the Musselburgh Races, but were refused.
Nevertheless they went to the races and they were sacked when they returned to work.
Requiring other employment, Charles Kennington and Charles Jenner decided to open their own shop. The shop, Kennington & Jenner opened in 1838 at 47 Princes Street offering Fancy Goods for Ladies.
It went on to become Jenners, probably the best known of Edinburgh's shops. It is still at the same address in Princes Street opposite the Scott Monument.
The shop expanded during the 19th century to include 48, 49 Princes Street and 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16 South St David Street.
Almost the whole premises were destroyed in a spectacular fire on 26 November 1892, viewed by 30,000 or 40,000 people.
Charles Jenner died in 1893.
The store was rebuilt with extensive electric lighting and fast lifts. It partially re-opened for a Christmas Bazaar in December 1894 and fully re-opened on 6 May 1895.
The store continued to thrive. It expanded into Rose Street to include the site of the former Stock Exchange in 1903, and further to the west to include 52 Princes Street in 1922.
In 1924, Kennington & Jenners became a Limited Company and was renamed, Jenners Princes Street Limited.
The store underwent many management changes. Most notably in the late 90s the role of Sales Manager was split into Buyers and Sales Managers. This allowed better management of the purchasing and stock movement though it was fraught with personal tension and distrust. The role of Buyer was then split include Buyers and Merchandisers in 2004, shortly before the takeover.
It was announced in March 2005 that Jenners, by then the oldest independent department store in the world, had been sold to its rival House of Fraser for £46.1m, so ending 167 years of family-run independence. Jenners' Princes Street store, in 2005, employed over 750 workers.
House of Fraser announced in March 2005 that the Jenners stores at Princes Street and at Glasgow Airport, Edinburgh Airport and Loch Lomond would all be retained and that the Company will continue to trade as Jenners.
(1) for most of the details above up to 1938: A Hundred Years In Princes Street 1838-1938: Published by Jenners.
(2) for details of the takeover in 2005: Edinburgh Evening News, 16 March 2005, pp.22-23 and 21 March 2005, pp.1, 3]
Jenners is now facing increased competition from out-of-town retailers, the new Harvey Nichols in nearby St Andrew's Square, and the newly refurbished John Lewis nearby. On March 16 2005 it was announced that the Douglas-Miller family who own Jenners were in advanced negotiations to sell the business to the House of Fraser, at an estimated £100–200 million; the name "Jenners" would still be used for the store. It was later sold for around £45 million. House of Fraser subsequently sold the lease of the buildings to an unknown private company based in Ireland, owed by Robbie Douglas Miller (former Chief Executive of Jenners).
Jenners currently has four shops:
The two airport stores are due to close following a decision announced in April 2007. Jenners said that security measures introduced in UK airports following the 2006 transatlantic aircraft plot, has led to a significant downturn in trade at the shops.