History

VOISINS: 177 YEARS OF HISTORY IN STORE

Voisin & Company was founded by Francis Voisin on 5 April 1837 as a haberdashery shop in 26 King Street. The company expanded throughout the nineteenth century opening a men’s outfitters in 1838 and a furniture department in New Street in 1868.

Francis Voisin’s success stemmed largely from his determination to source the right goods for his store and he went on many buying trips around the world. With his belongings tied up in a red handkerchief, he travelled to the Continent, Asia and America in pursuit of the perfect products for his customers. With his buying trips taking him to England and France for ribbons, to Belgium, Yorkshire and Northern Ireland for linen, to the Orient for silks and to Russia for furs, Francis Voisin was the most travelled Jerseyman of his time.

Because of his travels, Francis Voisin needed somebody in Jersey to supervise the shop’s day-to-day running. In 1858, he went into partnership with Charles Bisson and from then until Mr Bisson’s retirement in 1876, the store was called Voisin, Bisson & Co. Showing his entrepreneurial skills, Francis Voisin formed a bank to facilitate his trading in different currencies and to offer credit facilities to his customers. He ran his bank so successfully that it was one of very few that survived the crash of many Jersey banks in the mid 1880s. It remained open until the end of the nineteenth century when English clearing banks arrived in the Island.

In those early years, the demand for jobs at Voisin & Co was so great that there was a waiting list. Successful candidates underwent a three year apprenticeship, learning firstly how to wrap a parcel and then studying the stock of each department before being allowed to serve any customers.

In 1915, the store’s ownership passed to the third generation of the Voisin family with Colonel Francis Hazzard taking charge. Under his ownership, Voisin & Co bought Gaudin’s – a renowned restaurant and bakery. During the 1930s, he modernised the store’s King Street properties designing the façade which has remained largely unchanged since then.

When Colonel Voisin died in 1933, his son Gerald Hazzard took over. His time at the helm was tragically short as he and his wife were killed in a plane crash as they travelled from Jersey to Southampton to attend their niece’s Christening.

From 1938 until 1962, the business was run by Gerald Hazzard’s brother – Colonel Francis Ogier Voisin – whose military background ensured that the business was run with a rod of iron. During the Second World War, Colonel Francis Ogier Voisin was engaged in military duties so the store’s running was entrusted to Mr C Mauger. During the Occupation, the occupying forces stored their uniforms in a warehouse in New Street which now houses Voisins’ car park. On 1 April 1941, Voisins sent a letter of complaint to the Bailiff Alexander Coutanche regarding the responsibility for baking the Island’s bread ration being transferred from Gaudin’s to A de Gruchy. Towards the end of the Occupation, Voisins only opened on Saturdays selling secondhand goods.

In 1962, Gerald Francis Voisin became the fifth generation of the Voisin family to run the store. He inherited a store with 30 departments and nearly 200 staff. By 1972, this has increased to 36 departments and 270 staff, which led to further extensions and modernisation throughout the store. In the same year, Voisins opened a branch in St Malo selling products ranging from cashmere to carpets. During this time, Voisins regularly exhibited at the trade fair in Rennes flying the flag for Voisins and Jersey.

In 1992, current owner Francis Gerald Voisin purchased the business from Gerald Francis Voisin. He continued taking the business forward, modernising the shop front in 1996. In the same year, the St Malo branch closed. Four years later, the name of the business changed from Voisin & Co to Voisins Department Store.

Current owner Gerald Voisin

2004 saw the opening of a larger menswear department with the extra space being used to bring new brands to shoppers. In 2007, the ground floor of Voisins underwent a major refurbishment which included the relocation of the main staircase facilitating the creation of the Island’s leading beauty and fragrance hall and accessories department.

This refurbishment was followed by an exciting new designer fashion floor on the first floor in 2009. This £1.5 million investment brought 8,000 square feet of retail space to shoppers. March 2011 saw the opening of The White Company – the first time that The White Company has brought its homeware, clothing and childrens wear collections to the Channel Islands.

Three months later, Café 1837 opened on the first floor of Voisins – the name commemorating the date that Voisins was founded.

In 2012, Voisins celebrated its 175th anniversary by bringing more exciting brands to the Island, including the world’s only River Island concession, a new luggage department and Michael Kors menswear.

This trend has continued with Jo Malone London, Joules, White Stuff and Michael Kors accessories opening in Voisins in 2013 while 2014 has welcomed Bobbi Brown and Thomas Pink to the premier house of brands in the Channel Islands.