GUS (retailer)

GUS (retailer)

Infobox Defunct Company
company_name = GUS plc
fate = Split-up/Sold Off
Part merged with Littlewoods
successor = Home Retail Group/Littlewoods Shop Direct Group
foundation = 1900 as Universal Stores
defunct = October 10, 2006
location = London, England
industry = Conglomerate
key_people = Sir Victor Blank (Chairman),
Terry Duddy (ARG Chief Exec)
products = Mail order/Conglomerate
num_employees = 54,926
homepage = []
parent =
subsid = Argos Retail Group

GUS plc (lse|GUS) was a FTSE 100 retailing group based in the United Kingdom. GUS is an abbreviation of Great Universal Stores, the company's former name before 2001. On 10 October 2006, the company was split into two separate companies.

The company had two main divisions:

* ARG – The Argos Retail Group, now demerged to be to Home Retail Group, which consisted of several subdivisions, including
**Argos (previously an independent company, once owned by British American Tobacco) – the UK's largest catalogue retailer
**Homebase (formerly owned and founded by J Sainsbury) – a DIY (home improvement) retailer
**ARG Financial Services – provider of store card services, such as the Argos Card and Argos insurance products.

*Experian – a credit reporting agency

In the year ended 31 March 2005, GUS had sales of £7.8 billion and profits (before goodwill, exceptional items and taxation) of £910 million.


Universal Stores was founded in 1900 as a mail order business in Manchester, England, by Abraham and George Rose. In 1930, the company changed its name to The Great Universal Stores Limited. The next year it was listed on the London Stock Exchange. At this stage, it was the leading mail order business in the UK.

In 1932, Isaac Wolfson joined the company as merchandise controller. He became joint managing director in the same year. He was Chairman from the late 1940s until his retirement in 1987. Through his wealth gained at Great Universal Stores, he established the Wolfson Foundation in 1955. His son, Leonard Wolfson, followed him as Chairman, to be succeeded by David Wolfson (1996–2000).

In 2001 the company changed its name to GUS plc.

In 2004, the company sold its traditional home shopping (catalogues) division to the Barclay twins, who merged it into their Littlewoods business. This included the iconic "Great Universal Stores" catalogue, from which the company took its name, and completed the departure of GUS from its original business areas. Around the same time, the Barclays announced the closure of the Littlewoods Index retail chain, the principal rival to Argos in the UK, selling around 35 stores to Argos.

In May 2005, it announced that it would divest its stake in Burberry by distributing Burberry shares to its own shareholders. The Burberry demerger was completed in December 2005. GUS also stated that it planned to demerge Experian from the retail businesses in the future.

On 28 March 2006, it was announced that the Home Retail Group would be split from the Experian division, with both companies listed separately on the LSE as of 11 October 2006. This effectively means the end of the GUS conglomerate, which has been de-listed now its shares have been split between the two divisions. There will also be 10-15% new equity issued in Experian. Now the Home Retail Group head office is located in Milton Keynes central business district. Experian plc, incorporated in Jersey, is located in Dublin. GUS plc became a wholly owned subsidiary of Experian plc after the demerger and was renamed to Experian Finance plc.

GUS plc [ ranked] as the highest-spending online advertiser in the US, according to Nielson NetRatings, spending over $659m in 2006. Interestingly, the next-ranked online advertiser, Vonage, was a distant second at just over $294m.

External links

* [ Official website]
* [ Yahoo! profile]

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