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Independent Stores Association - ISA and later it became Associated Independant Stores Ltd - Associated Independent Stores - AIS

Members included David Evans in Swansea, Jenners in Edinburgh, Arnotts in Dublin, Ireland, Bonds of Norwich, Bentalls of Kingston Upon Thames & other branches, Beales of Bournemouth, Ricemans of Canterbury, Murrays of High Wycombe, Clements of Watford ISA Member Stores Here

See also other Independent Department Stores from the 1970s

ISA magazine with individual member stores on front cover

The magazine was full of advertising and articles on products and products sourced for member stores - Insidee there was a profile of each store (Source Robert Suter archives January 2021)

Suters of Slough & Uxbridge, Grants of Croydon, Dingles of Plymouth & Bentalls of Kingston-Upon-Thames

Keddies of Southend, Heals of Tottenham Court Road, London, Cockaynes of Sheffield & David Morgan of Cardiff

David Evans of Swansea, Colmers of Bath, Brown Thomas of Grafton Street - Dublin & Palmers of Yarmouth


Beales of Bournemouth, Poole & Bealsons of Bournemouth, W.Eaden Lilley & Co of Cambridge & Hammonds of Hull

Anderson & McAuley of Belfast, Schofields of Leeds, Bonds of Norwich & Brown Muff's of Bradford

Information from Suters House Journal Spotlight March / April 1969

Suters Ltd. were elected to the Independent Stores Association on the 1st February 1969..

What is the Independent Stores Association? (often known as the I.S.A.)

Founded in 1948, The Independent Stores Association consists of twenty family owned department stores whose directors and principal executives realise the value to their businesses of an Association, the objects of which are summarized below:-

(1) To exchange statistical and other information (on trading).

(2) To promote research into operating methods.

(3) To compare and improve merchandise methods.

(4) To exchange information regarding sources of supply and to promote exclusive lines of merchandide.

(5) To encourage creative merchandising by improving the range, standards of quality and design of merchandise.

The Association aims at the maximum of mutual aid compatible with individual freedom. Members derive results commensurate with the efforts they are themselves prepared to contribute. Members retain their individuality completely and there is no central financial control.



11-13 March 1969 - venue Lygon Arms, Broadway, Worcs.

Attendted by Messrs. T.W. & I.S.A. Suter.

This course, run by Mr. Ronald Beale and his Committee, proved highly acceptable to those participating. it was designed primarily for executives whose responsibilty lies more in the merchandising field, for training in some of the financial aspects of management.

It was obvious that there was a realisation amongst member stores of this Association that only by increasing their understanding of the financial matters concerning our businesses could we merchants more successfully assist in our enterprise.

The content of the conference had been designed in a context which did not expect such a bevy of Company Secretaries to be included and consequently some speakers felt that they should raise the standard for appraisal to one which these participants might not feel was wasting their time. Mere merchants, therefore, found the speed and terminology beyond their sciptive powers on occasion but nevertheless highly informative. My own view was that on the matter of finance there was insufficient time and visual aids or summaries would have improved an otherwise interesting team of speakers.

Harold Boundy spoke to us in the opening session on the Interpretation of Accounts and Financial Ratios, and here I felt that we could have carried out an exercise, possibly using our own results for comparison.

Frank Scott took up the matter of Producing the Data and Statistics required by Management, and gave us considerable insight into the fast moving advances computerisation and mechanisation can bring to the retail trade. A sound word of advice was introduced by him when he warned us that now, prior to decimalisation, was the time for us to review our stationery libraries and therow out unecssary paperwork. He reminded us that Lord Marks had deemed "that the price of perfection was prohibtive".

Two sessions on Critical Path Analysis bt John Sharpe from the College of Magement Studies were to me a very instructional nature, and I found the short exercise given to us a useful aid to undertanding.

His colleague, Kenneth Ambrose, introduced the Human Factor in Profits and Motivation of Staff, and here again I found the syndicated half-hour beneficial together with the film on Professor Herzberg's view of motivation.

Sessions on the Companies Act and Corporation Tax, Decimalisation and Chairing of A meeting produced again interesting thoughts and information. Evaluation of the Conference by members produced the suggestion that an introduction to the course on the evening of arrival would save time, and that it was necessary for speakers to receive a more definite briefing upon the area of coverage.

As very new members we were greatly impressed by the ability shown within the Association, and as a merchant member of the Conference i would consider the general standard to have been high in content and well suited to our needs. The inclusion of members already well versed on financial matters does not detract from the general benefits of their presence since they provoke discussion in areas not immediately seen from the merchandise side. They expressed similar thoughts in suggesting the benefits which would accrue to them on a merchandise type course and ny own view is that no serious problem is involved here until far greater specialisation becomes possible.


Merchandise Director.


Meet the General - ISA Independent Stores Association July 1969 by Mr Robert Woodcock - Click on image to read as PDF

I.S.A. Buying Trip, Knitwear Fair, Bologna, Italy February 1973 - Click on image to read as PDF


List of half yearly member stores sales for 1971/1972 (click on image to open as PDF) Image source Robert Suter archives


Robert Suter recalls that he became a member of the IAS (Independent Stores Association Ltd) as a Junior executive in 1972. This changed to the AIS (Associated Independent Stores) in July 1976. He regularly attended meetings alongside fellow directors. Meetings were held at different locations and hosted by fellow members of the AIS / IAS such as:

May 1972 - David Morgans of Cardiff; attended by Robert and Michael Suter

May 1973 - Various stores in Dusseldorf and Stuttgart (Germany); attended by Robert and Michael Suter

March 1974 - Grants of Croydon; attended by Michael Suter

April 1975 - Heals of Guildford and Bental's of Worthing - attended by Robert and Michael Suter

Feb 1977 - Eaden Lilley of Cambridge; attended by Robert Suter

Sep 1977 - Russell & Dorrell of Worcester; attended by Robert Suter. Interestingly where Anita Suter later worked.

April 1978 - David Evans of Swansea; attended by Robert and Philip Suter

Robert Suter (back row on left) when he was Chairman of the China and Glass section of AIS / Associated Independent Stores - c. 1977

Don Truckle was standing next to Robert. Mr D A Truckle was the AIS Selector for the AIS China and Glass Steering Committee in 1977/78 at the same time that Robert was the chairman.

Robert Suter at AIS / Associated Independent Stores meeting in 1970s

See also: Robert Suter's Memories of working at Suters Ltd


Philip Suter noted "David Evans in Swansea" was a member of the AIS - Associated Independent Stores like Suters Ltd and part of the arrangement was visits and meetings at other member stores. In April of 1978 Philip and his brother Robert went to Swansea for such a visit. At that time negotiations were nearly completed with Owen Owen, however everything was confidential and so outwardly we had to show that business was normal, they too were in the process of selling."

See More Information about David Evans and that visit to Swansea in April 1978 Here


Czarina labels


Above: At this stage the association was branded as "Associated Department Stores" (Images above do not enlarge)

To compete with the buying power of the larger retail groups developing, many of these family stores had joined a buying and marketing group like the ISA -Independent Stores Association with the Czarina brand name.A large range of products throughout the stores had the Czarina brand label on them. By this time the organisation was known as Associated Independent Stores - AIS and there are still many family run department stores who are part of it. The Czarina logo was also used on advertising, bags and the back of sales bills.


Left: Suters Slough & Uxbridge "Czarina" bag 1970s

Suters Associated Independent Stores - Czarina ad launch September 17, 1976

Advertisement in the Fulcrum Theatre, Slough programme in 1977.

image supplied by Slough Museum

Suters AIS (Associated Independent Stores) Order Form

Left: Back of Cazrina branded bill from 1978

Notice of AGM 17 March 1978 for the AGM on Wednesday 5 April 178 with Tom Suter being one of the nominations to the board. Tom was obliged to withdraw his nomination prior to the AGM as the decision had been made by the Board of Suters Ltd to sell the Company to Messrs Owen Owen

In 2018 The Associated Independent Stores - AIS is still very much in business including department stores like Browns Department Stores of York amongst it membership


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Source of images, unless otherwise stated - Suter family archives


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