John Goode has worked in Howells for 37 years. He started his career as assistant buyer and now runs the Gold Card suite
Well at one time the windows were done like stage sets with one piece of expensive crystal setting the whole window off. Nowadays they are manufactured in London, they assemble them elsewhere then come along and plonk the thing in the Window. They are very static- to me it looks like B&Q, everything looks the same, our lighting department, for example just looks like B&Q. There are some manufacturers that would put a spin on it but that is what happens when you have centralised buying. The same stuff will sell in 56 shops.
We did used to win an awful lot of window display competitions- I remember one time I went to the design centre in London and we all had to stand up and say where we came from and when I stood up they all said, 'Ahh the store with the beautiful windows', so we were known nationally. Our windows are the same shape as the ones at Liberty's, they were built like a picture frame with lighting behind it and then slatted from the top so that the spotlight could highlight one glove holding something- for example. People would come to town at night to see our windows. They were shopper stoppers. Nowadays they are not, if a window was to stop me now I really do stand to look at it. Another thing that has changed considerably is the Christmas Bazaar. Father Christmas used to be sat on a seat for the children to come and visit. This year we have already started Christmas, and it is not event Bonfire Night yet. In my day you would gradually celebrate Christmas, starting on the first Sunday of Advent. On the first floor by the escalator there would be a beautiful crib done by the display department and every Thursday or late night there would be a choir from one of the churches singing in the hall or even in the restaurants. Another thing we used to have was models walking through the Restaurants, the canteen was actually set up as a fashion theatre and there would be fashion shows. The Lord Mayor and his wife would attend and choose their outfits for the season, all the worthys would come and there would be a Lamps and Paragon machine in the corner so madam could say I will have that and her money would be sucked straight up a shoot, off went the money and the bill came back and it would put straight on your account, the husbands didn't often know what was going on.