In a previous post, I wrote about how Kays promoted themselves as a brand in their catalogue of Spring/Summer 1939. Today, I’m taking a look at how much things had changed — or stayed the same — by Spring/Summer 1974.

Cover page, Spring/Summer 1974.
Cover page, Spring/Summer 1974.

The catalogue cover shows a picture of Worcester, complete with Cathedral, in a non-distinct but recognisably historical period. Kays were clearly still keen on highlighting their connection both with the town and with the past.

The following page announces that the firm is now 180 years old (a debatable claim).

'Kays, established 180 years', Spring/Summer 1974.
‘Kays, established 180 years’, Spring/Summer 1974.

‘In one-hundred-and-eighty years,’ Kays write, ‘Kays has grown from a small watchmaker’s and silversmith’s shop to become Europe’s leading mail order house.’

In keeping with a theme from the 1939 catalogue they also make sure to let you know that although they are very old, they are very modern, too. Times have changed, and they now let customers buy goods on credit:

The watchmaker who started the business would have been surprised to learn that you can see [Kays products] in your home before paying for them.

However, Kays don’t have much more to say on this theme after the front pages. I couldn’t find any product descriptions that talked about, for example, a long history of serving customers. Not even in the watch section, in spite of their particular historical connection with watches.

This may be because the watches for sale in 1974 are no longer Kays’  watches. Instead, the catalogue offers a variety of other makes, some of which you may find familiar:

Ingersoll, Disney and Timex watches, Spring/Summer 1974.
Ingersoll, Disney and Timex watches, Spring/Summer 1974.

Whilst the 1939 catalogue gave the (not always accurate) impression that Kays were in some way responsible for producing almost all of the products they sold, the Spring/Summer 1974 catalogue is awash with the names of other brands. If the fancy strikes you, you can buy Vynolay floor coverings, Slumberland beds, Mary Quant toiletries, Hitachi televisions, or a Vidal Sassoon wig.

Hitachi and Decca televisions, Spring/Summer 1974.
Hitachi and Decca televisions, Spring/Summer 1974.

Some products aren’t advertised with any brand — often the cheaper items — and others do still have the Kays name attached to them, like these Kaypers children’s shoes:

Kaypers and Norvic children's shoes, Spring/Summer 1974.
Kaypers and Norvic children’s shoes, Spring/Summer 1974.

But the overall impression is that Kays’ role is not as the creator of the goods they sell, but as an intermediary. They represent themselves as a sort of customer’s friend, bringing you the various branded products you want, and pointing out particularly good deals. One way in which the Kays name does appear on many of the catalogue pages is in the form of the special symbols they use to indicate ‘value’ items:

Kays' 'value' symbols (right-hand side), Spring/Summer 1974.
‘Kays value’ symbols (right-hand side), Spring/Summer 1974.

‘Look for these symbols,’ an opening page explains:

They mean extra value for money. Kay’s Value symbols will help you to find many of the outstanding values in this catalogue where the benefits of our buying power have been passed on to you.

The greater prominence of other brands makes Kays’ Spring/Summer 1974 catalogue look very different from those of the thirties and forties. Their business model had undoubtedly changed. But they still knew how to talk themselves up.

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