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Jones, Sir David Fletcher
Date of birth: 14 August 1895
Place of birth: Bendigo
Date of death: 22 February 1977
Place of death: Warrnambool
Biography: David Fletcher Jones (senior) was born in Bendigo, Victoria in August 1895. He served in WWI and on his return he began as a hawker with an ex-army comrade in the Western District of Victoria and South East South Australia; initially he sold goods from a horse-drawn wagon and later from a panel van. After he dissolved his hawking partnership and in 1924, Fletcher Jones opened three specialty shops in Liebig Street, Warrnambool and a small business in Hamilton. In 1931 "The Man's Shop" opened at the corner of Liebig and Koroit Street, Warrnambool. In 1935, “The Man’s Shop” began manufacturing trousers. Already interested in co-operative movements such as the 19th Century Rochdale weavers’ co-op, in 1936, Fletcher Jones visited Japan to study workers’ co-operatives, profit sharing and improving general conditions for workers. Fletcher Jones was heavily influenced by Toyohiko Kagawa, the Christian philosopher and poet. These ideas influenced the Fletcher Jones companies. In 1941, Fletcher Jones focuses business on manufacturing trousers for Department of Supply. In the 1940s Fletcher Jones rationalised his business arrangements which led to the transfer of “The Man’s Shop” workroom in Warrnambool to Fletcher Jones Trousers Pty Ltd in 1944. The subsequent focus was on making high quality wool men’s trousers and this culminated in the introduction of the very popular “Plus 8” style. In 1947, Fletcher Jones purchased an old quarry and it became the new factory site, called “Pleasant Hill”; in the same year Fletcher Jones & Staff Pty Ltd formed, to handle retailing in Melbourne. By 1948, Fletcher Jones & Staff was manufacturing trousers at “Pleasant Hill”. “Pleasant Hill” included gardens, designed with worker well-being in mind. “Pleasant Hill” offered many staff activities and facilitated the development of more personal relationships with staff, (referred to as the “FJ Family”). This is illustrated in the ‘Do you Know’ bulletins and letters to staff from Fletcher Jones, which blended business and personal announcements. In 1949, “The Man’s Shop” was sold to George Wardrop Ltd, “leav[ing] him free to concentrate on manufacturing at Warrnambool, and the distribution of men’s trousers in Melbourne and Adelaide. Sales to retail trade discontinued and the first retail shop opened in Melbourne, (the Melbourne Shop, 435 Collins Street). In 1949, Fletcher Jones & Staff Pty expanded to include dry cleaning, reforming, "after sales service", repairs and free alterations. In the 1950s additional retail shops were opened: Geelong (1950), Sydney and Hobart (1952), Warrnambool (1954), Queen Street Melbourne (1956). In 1959, the first Brunswick factory was opened and by 1960 there were 11 retail stores and 19 stores by 1965. In 1966, the Suit Division was established and a second factory in Brunswick was established to make coats. In 1956, the Methods Engineering Department was established at Warrnambool; Methods Engineering was an important part of the business because of Fletcher Jones’ interest in improving efficiency in the manufacturing process. The same year saw skirts being produced for the first time and the first order placed for Melbourne Olympic Games. Also in 1956, the Fletcher Jones Security Fund was created, setting aside a portion of company profits, a bonus was given to permanent employees and placed in fund. During this time several other companies were formed to take on different functions of the business, including: Fletcher Jones (Mail Order) Pty Ltd and Fletcher Jones and Staff (S A) Pty Ltd (August 1949). This was done because Fletcher Jones wanted the company to be decentralised, which was another of his personal interests. In 1953, Fletcher Jones saw the need for a dedicated drop off/delivery drycleaning service for the “Plus 8” trousers, leading to the formation of Fletcher Jones Service Pty Ltd. In August 1954, Fletcher Jones and Staff (Regional) Pty Ltd was incorporated. In December 1958 FJ Foundation was incorporated (2012.0031.0015); the Foundation handled the philanthropic aspect of the business. Although under the Fletcher Jones brand, each company was a separate entity with “its own shareholding, comprising FJ and his family as its major shareholding; senior staff of the respective companies held the balance”. This structure proved problematic due to the danger that “all companies were not equally successful”, “some shareholders felt that they were likely to become poor relations”. To counteract this, Fletcher Jones Organisations Pty Ltd was incorporated in November 1951 to “combine the shareholdings of the members of the individual companies into a single holding company” . In order to manage family investments in these companies, Raloda Pty Ltd was incorporated in December 1948, investors in Raloda included F.J. Foundation and family companies however, as his children had not reached age of legal responsibility, three trusts were created: First Raloda Trust, Second Raloda Trust and Third Raloda Trust. Following this approach, in 1977 another company called Andolar Pty Ltd was formed to “enable the next generation to get a share of the action”. In 1970, Fletcher Jones retired from his position of Managing Director and in 1975, he resigned from position of Chairman of Directors, succeeded by D.N. Symons with David Jones as Deputy Chairman. In 1977, Fletcher Jones died. In 1970s Fletcher Jones began manufacturing jeans and shorts (1972). The 1970s/1980s was a time of great change for Fletcher Jones, and the company tried to keep up with changes in fashion. Greater automation was introduced in the manufacturing process to help compete with greater overseas competition in 1974, when the IBM System 3 for managing and recording inventory was first used. In 1971, a factory was established at Mt. Gambier. In 1979, D.N. Symons retired from position of Managing Director and became Executive Chairman; David Jones then became the Managing Director. Also at this time Fletcher Jones made partnerships with overseas companies including Max Mara and Alexon. Fletcher Jones began using synthetic materials and to focus on off-the-rack clothing. The company had a late success in 1982 when Fletcher Jones & Staff was selected to design the Australian Commonwealth Games team uniforms. In 1985, first dedicated women’s wear retail store opened in Melbourne and in 1991, First F.J. Holdings was established. After a period of financial stress during industry restructuring, loss of tariff protections and a severe national recession, in 1994, Fletcher Jones Organisations Pty Ltd and Fletcher Jones Holdings went into voluntary liquidation. Sources: The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), Tuesday 29 November 1949, page 9 Jones, Sir F. Not By Myself, (p.226)
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