Gowings, or rather G Retail,
operator of the Gowings store under licence from the founding family, is gone and won’t be

The only
logical buyer is Gowings Bros, the investment arm and
original owner which spun off the retail business back in 2001 and which became
G Retail.

G Retail
went into administration late yesterday (as this story explains). But all the
talk of trading and selling is just pie in the sky because, as Gowing Bros makes clear in this statement, it
has the whip hand. It owns the
Gowing Building on the corner of Market and
Street: G retail is just a tenant. It licences the Gowing name, so any
prospective buyer would want to have that.

The Gowing attitude to the use of the
name can be seen from the opposition to its use by Lowes, which had been talking to G Retail for the past two
months. That
opposition sank the Lowes deal and the name is perhaps
the only asset from G Retail worth having.

But all
this is understandable given the cynical way that Gowing disposed of the retailing business back in 2001,
after running it into the ground. The company’s property and investment income
came to naught back in 2000 and 2001 as losses from the store, run by John Gowing, proved insurmountable.

The company
then spun off the retail business and earnings, cash flow and dividends improved
dramatically: that’s all the spin-off was about, protecting the Gowing family’s major investment in property and
shares. It was a
desperate attempt by the family and the company to get rid of a millstone that
had been run by by John Gowing, now managing director of Gow Bros.

A reader

The impact of the heir apparent, young Mr John
Gowing who took over the running of the store from his
Dad in the early nineties. Here was a man who turned the store into his own
private toy shop allowing his hobbies and interests to dictate the choice of
stock and alienating his customers in the process.

departure from the one store philosophy of his forefathers was driven purely by
John’s vanity – he opened on the site of the failed Remo store in Paddington – having met and disliked immensely
Remo’s self-made founder, he wanted to prove that he
was not the spoilt rich kid who had simply inherited the family business.

But, as
you say, no matter how long you have been around, no matter how ‘quirky’ the
catalogue, no matter how much money you donate to saving whales and no matter
how many generations went before you, if you lose sight of what it is that
singles you out from the crowd, you are doomed to fail.