Our History

Palmers - 175 Years in the Making

Garwood Burton Palmer opened a small drapery shop in Great Yarmouth’s bustling Market Place in 1837. 175 years later, Palmers is still a successful independent business.

The Company has expanded its operations across East Anglia with branches at Great Yarmouth, Bury St. Edmunds and Lowestoft. Palmers is now one of East Anglia’s largest Independent Retailers with its complement of regional branches. In 1961 Palmers made the first move to expansion by purchasing what was to become the Palmers Fashion Store in the centre of busy Bury St Edmunds. A second store in Bury St. Edmunds in 1998 was to become the popular Homestore. In 2004 Palmers took over the major family store of Chadds of Lowestoft, changing the name to Palmers in 2009.

While making its various acquisitions of stores across East Anglia Palmers has retained that level of specialist and personal service, which only an experienced family controlled store can offer. For many years Palmers has also played a leading role and been part of Associated Independent Stores (AIS), the largest independent buying group in the UK which has over 500 stores in the Association. Membership of AIS has allowed Palmers to compete with the big name High Street chains and has enabled the family firm to expand from its small beginnings in Great Yarmouth to the major and popular retail group with the name it enjoys today.

The Palmer Family Tree: From Founder to Directors today

The original Palmers shop was opened by Garwood Burton Palmer in the reign of King William IV in 1837. The business started as a linen mercer’s and silk drapers in the market place which had been the busiest trading centre of Great Yarmouth for centuries.

At this time the shop, which was later known as Albion House, covered only about 750 square feet of floor space. A contemporary description, after some alterations had been made to the premises, recorded Palmers as a firm depending on the family trade and combining superiority in manufacture with a high quality finish.

Garwood’s younger brother Nathaniel Benjamin Palmer came into the business in 1844, seven years after its founding, and soon became a full partner. Although he died at the early age of 38 he left two sons Edward Ernest Palmer and James Hurry Palmer to join the business in 1874 and 1876 respectively to assist the founder. When Garwood died in 1888 the business was left in the capable hands of Edward and James and became known as ‘Palmer Bros’.

By 1908 Garwood’s great nephew Percy Hurry Palmer was running the store. He expanded by purchasing properties to the side and back of the store and by the time of the firm’s centenary had re-laid and refitted all departments creating an attractive and modern department store rivalling many in the bigger cities.

The family link was maintained when Percy’s son-in-law Graham Sturrock joined the firm in 1947 and carried on to become Chairman in 1960. Bruce Sturrock joined his father in 1971, and became Managing Director in 1983 and then Chairman of the Company in 1993. Bruce was keen to recruit his sister Wendy Cole, who had been a Fashion Buyer at Bloomingdales in New York. She joined the Company as Fashion Director in 1993. Bruce and Wendy represent the 5th generation of family management and are keen that the company should continue as an independent family business for many years to come.

Palmers Department Stores Today: A Modern Family Business

In February 2012 David Howard was appointed Managing Director of Palmers. He is the first person outside of the family to run the business in its 175 year history, underlining the present family’s determination to find the right person for the job and ensure the future of the company. However the family link has been maintained as Bruce Sturrock remains Chairman and his daughter Emma Sturrock has recently joined the company as eCommerce manager running the store’s fast expanding online business – www.palmerstores.com

The family link is reinforced by people who have worked for Palmers for many years. The Company has 102 members of staff who have been employed for over 10 years and 26 who have given service for over 20 years. The longest serving staff member is Barry Moyse, a senior member of the delivery team, who has been with Palmers for 45 years. He is pictured with other long serving staff from all branches whose length of service totals almost 350 years.

Palmers has served the town of Great Yarmouth for 175 years. Palmers present Chairman, Bruce Sturrock, is the great, great, great nephew of Garwood Burton Palmer and the 5th generation of family management. The firm has traded in the town of Great Yarmouth during seven reigns of British Monarchs retaining that level of specialist and personal service that only an independent can offer.

In 1987, HRH Princess Alexandra officially opened Palmers’ 150th anniversary celebrations. On 27th February 2012, the Great Yarmouth store was honoured with a visit from HRH The Prince of Wales, to mark its 175th anniversary.