Chemists racks up 100 years as familiar face of Princes Street

Boots in 1956
Boots in 1956
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IT IS one of the oldest stores in the Capital, and was one of the first to take up residence on Princes Street.

And this weekend Boots will be cutting the cake to celebrate its centenary year in the Capital’s main thoroughfare.

Jilly Paton, left and Denise Steel with Boots' birthday cake

Jilly Paton, left and Denise Steel with Boots' birthday cake

Customers will be able to share in the celebrations, with visitors being invited to tuck into a gigantic birthday cake decorated with models of the shop.

There will also be an exhibition of old pictures giving them a glimpse into the long history of the building, while an archivist from the company will be on hand to answer any 
questions.

Boots acquired the Princes Street site in 1912 and then proceeded to have its flagship Scottish store built to order, bringing its total number of outlets to a grand 560.

By the end of the 19th century, Boots had its own shopfitting service, ensuring each shop met its every requirement.

The front of the original Princes Street building was adorned with statues of historical 
figures, such as Robert Burns, William Wallace, John Knox and Walter Scott, but none of these survive today.

There was also originally a Bonnie Prince Charlie tableau decorating the top of the facade, sadly now only evident in some photographs.

Laura Giles , an archivist with the chemists, said: “The shop has changed during the time that Boots has been selling everything from headache tablets to hair products. There used to be staff personally serving everyone who entered the shop, whereas now it is much more self-service in line with modern retail. While the Edinburgh shop itself opened in 1912, it was extended in the 1950s to take in the building next door and, as regulars will know, since the 1980s, after a major refit, there has been a sneaky back door which allows you to nip in from Rose Street rather than walking all the way round to Princes Street.”

Like most of Boots’ stores in the 1950s, the Princes Street branch offered a subscription library, called the Boots Booklovers Library, which featured prominently in the film Brief Encounter – reflecting an age when fewer people could afford to buy books.

Other departments included handbags, travel goods, silverware, stationery and picture framing as well as a surgical department selling “occupational health products”.

Boots is one of the oldest companies in the UK, dating back to 1849 when it was started by Jessie Boot, who sold herbal remedies from a small shop in Nottingham. Today, the company has 2500 stores across the UK as well as overseas. It is still a major employer in the Capital, with around 150 staff working in the Princes Street store alone.

General manager, George McDonald, said: “We’re really excited about our 100th anniversary. We have a number of events planned to mark the occasion and we are looking forward to celebrating with both old and new customers.”