The History of Boyes & Where it is Now

What is Boyes?

In the middle of many Yorkshire towns, a market square, a smattering of pubs, and an old church is a branch of Boyes. This is often referred to as the staple of the northern high street.

Boyes has had a long history in Yorkshire. It still remains a favourite haunt for shoppers looking for a bargain.

Find out how a small store in a poor part of Scarborough turned into one of the most familiar chain stores in the North.

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The beginning of Boyes

The Boyes story starts on the poverty stricken streets of Scarborough in 1881. William Boyes had the idea of setting up a small shop selling odds and ends from local merchants.

These odd lots and remnants of items such as cloth and buttons could be bought and sold cheaply. Word soon started to spread around this tightly knit community about this new store.

Boyes soon became known as the place where material can be bought cheaper than anywhere else. In those days, dresses and coats would be made in the home rather than bought in a shop.

A shop like Boyes in the 19th Century Scarborough was a big advantage to the people living there. Customers could spend less of their hard-earned money on buying things to make their own clothes.

Shop front of Boyes, Photo credit, John S turner, Geograph, Creative Commons
Shop front of Boyes, Photo credit, John S turner, Geograph, Creative Commons

How Boyes became what it is today

Trade began to increase massively for Boyes. It got to the point that the business needed a bigger premises in order to operate and continue to run smoothly.

As a result, Boyes decided to buy two corner units which were located on Market Street and Queen’s Street. Both buildings were knocked together to make it one large store.

Since it was now one building, Boyes needed to decide on a name. He decided to call it “The Remnant Warehouse” which is still known as “The Rem” by Scarborough’s older residents.

Boyes realised that he still had space to fill. With this in mind, he increased his range and bought more clearance lines from merchants and developed it into a department store.

Turn of the Century

Around the beginning of the new Century, Boyes started expanding into other Yorkshire places. The first shop to be opened outside of its hometown Scarborough was on Ouse Bridge in York.

Another shop soon followed on Prospect Street in Kingston Upon Hull. Over the course of the 20th Century, several stores began to pop up all over on Yorkshire’s high streets.

In the second half of the 20th Century, more shops were beginning to open. These included some in foreign territory like County Durham and Lincolnshire.

Boyes continued to prosper and was becoming increasingly popular. Their stores fulfilled a need for selling useful household items at a bargain price.

A family business

Over the years, several of William Boyes’ descendants have held prominent positions within the firm. This includes his youngest grandson Paul who spent 67 years of his life working for his family’s company.

In 1944, Paul started working on the shop floor in the gentlemen’s department. He first started out at the businesses flagship store in Scarborough.

After a few years, Paul was promoted to manager of the branch in Grimsby. In 1968, he was appointed onto the board and remained there until his death in 2011.

Where is Boyes now?

In more recent years, W Boyes & Co is run by descendent Andrew Boyes. The company has found its niche once more despite hard economic times.

Evidence of the business doing well is its expansion into the Midlands and South of England. These include places such as Chesterfield, Cleethorpes, Brigg, Heanor, and Eastwood.

In April 2014, the 50th store chain opened in Coalville, Leicestershire. As of December 2021, there are 69 shops which welcome around 250,000 customers per week.

Currently, Boyes’s headquarters is in Eastfield, North Yorkshire. Although this isn’t where they started out, despite having shops all over the country they have stayed true to their Yorkshire roots.

Boyes has continued to thrive for over 140 years of economic highs, lows, wars, and changing shopping habits. Like an old friend, it has always remained the same.

It’s an Aladdin’s Cave of everyday items ranging from wool to hardware and chocolate to clothing. Boyes is truly a favourite Yorkshire institution.