FJ's Opens Collins St. Store, 1946

By 1945, Fletcher Jones was already selling his Warrnambool made trousers across 123 retailers in four states. The idea of fractional fittings and selling only after a personal fitting was new and stores were not following Fletcher's request that EVERY trouser had to be personally fitted.  Fletcher quickly became disillusioned with the stores and the quality of their fittings and decided to open his own retail outlet.  On June 24, 1946 Fletcher Jones opened the doors of Australia's first shop selling (only) men's trousers on the corner of Collins and Market St in Melbourne.  The sign said 'Fletcher Jones of Warrnambool.  Nothing but Trousers'.   The trousers were offered in 72 mathematically determined sizes, aimed at accomodating the diverse shapes of the Australian male population and could only be sold with a personal fitting to ensure the best fit to the man.  

Fletcher said, "we hadn't a clue what would happen on our opening day in mighty Melbourne.  We needn't have worried.

There was queue of customers extending from the front door of the store right down to King St and a second one down Market St to Flinders Lane.  They were already lined up at 7.30am when our staff arrived....All we could do was hope our eight fitting rooms and 1,150 pairs of trousers could ride out this crisis.  Until opening day, 1,150 trousers had seemed a lot of trousers.... we started off with a limit of two pairs per customer.  After the first day it became one pair per man." 

Fletcher Jones had a policy of personal fitting - though he said this really tested our staff at times with customers yelling out 'give me a pair!  What a lot of rot trying them on!  Who do you think you are.... Give them to me!..'

At the time, 90 pair of trousers was the maximum that the Man's Shop in Warrnambool could produce in one day!   "Every pair of trousers were made by our tailoresses in Warrnambool.  It was impossible to cope at either end... Production couldn't keep up with sales even if the mills could supply the demand for cloth."  

The same demand continued in the first hectic months of trading.  Store staff waited anxiously each morning for the early train bringing a new supply of trousers from Warrnambool. Shop hours were reduced from 10am until 4.15pm.  "We were sailing so close to the wind that it was no good opening our doors until yesterday's trousers arrrived from Spencer St Station. There was a chap selling bottled beer from his wine cellar in William St.  He sometimes sported a queue too.  Sometimes the trouser queue and the beer queue became confused and some of our customers got the ration of two bottles thrust into their hands but missed out on the trousers!"   

The trousers were all made from the same material - coverdine, a close woven fine merino cloth from John Vicars and Co in Marrickville, NSW.  "Careful attention was given to craftsmanship and quality control over stitching, cut and finish....Four colours were offered and the trousers were made in only one style. The trousers were fully-draped, resembling a divided skirt hanging from the waistband. Because eight inches of extra cloth were cut into the drape, they were known as ‘plus-eights’. " Rex Scambary - Australia Now.

 

 

The amazing block long queues outside the FJ Collins St store in 1946. Photo: Jones Family Collection.
Queue control, close of business Saturday afternoon. Photo: Jones Family Collection.
The first FJ retail store on the corner of Collins St and Market St.   Photo: Jones Family Collection.
The queue for fitting and sales inside the Collins St store.   Photo: Jones Family Collection.
Inside the Collins St store. Photo: Jones Family Collection.
The first FJ retail store on the corner of Collins St and Market St.   Photo: Jones Family Collection.
No man is hard to fit - 72 scientific sizes!  Photo: Jones Family Collection.
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