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Past Times

Unearthed photos take us back to new John Menzies store in Dundee in 1984

Here are what the shelves looked like in the new John Menzies store in Dundee 40 years ago. reports.
Graeme Strachan
The toy department in John Menzies in1984.
The toy department in 1984. Image: DC Thomson.

These forgotten images show what the shelves looked like in the new John Menzies store in Dundee 40 years ago.

Some have never been published before.

They were unearthed from the DC Thomson archive.

The photos were taken when Dundee institution John Menzies moved across the Murraygate in October 1984 and opened in the former Woolworths “with everything on one huge floor”.

Woolies had closed in March 1984 after being open since 1924.

The “bright, modern and convenient store further along the Murraygate” became the largest single-floor John Menzies store in the country.

As before, there was a newsagents, stationers, bookshop, record shop, toyshop, card shop and home computer shop plus a brand new telephone shop.

Retro adverts from the time promised customers even more choice in all departments “from Jeffrey Archer’s new best-seller to Michael Jackson’s latest LP”.

They also show the prices you could expect to pay for now obsolete technology including the Sinclair QL at £399 and the BBC Micro at £399.

From three floors to one in 1984

It would be the final move for a chain with Dundee history going back 100 years.

A bookstall opened at Dundee Railway Station before the city was served by shops in Whitehall Street and eventually a three-floor store on the Murraygate corner in 1975.

Manager George Betty said although the location of the store may have changed that “the service offered will remain both friendly and of the highest standard”.

John Menzies Murraygate 1984.
John Menzies moved from their old building on the corner of Murraygate. Image: DC Thomson.

Opening hours were 9am-5.30pm Monday to Saturday and noon to 4pm on Sunday.

An Evening Telegraph advertising feature said customers visiting the “eight shops in one” would find “so many good buys in each department”.

“The news department, as you would expect, has a full range of national and local newspapers, magazines and periodicals, and a wide selection of confectionery and tobacco,” it read.

“Technology buffs will find the larger computer department twice as interesting with a wide range of hardware, software and peripherals.

“Of special interest are the new Amstrad and the Sinclair QL.”

An advert for the computers on sale at John Menzies in Dundee.
An advert for the computers on sale. Image: DC Thomson.

The ZX Spectrum 48K was £129.95 complete with £56.70 worth of free software.

The new Spectrum Plus was £179.95 with £64.70 of free software.

A Spectrum joystick gift set was £24.95.

Programmes and games had to be loaded using a cassette recorder connected to the computer or typed in word for word in the computer language BASIC.

A programme could be loaded from tape within minutes but typing a programme was a process that took hours although these were not seen as drawbacks at the time.

The computer department in John Menzies in Dundee in 1984.
The computer department was a popular place in 1984. Image: DC Thomson.

The ZX Spectrum was being manufactured by an army of Dundee women at the Timex factory in Camperdown and was a smash hit from the start.

The Amstrad with colour monitor was £359 and the Commodore 64 was £199.95.

Computer games were priced from £7.95 to £14.95 with titles in 1984 including Ghostbusters, Suicide Express, Fall Guy and Steve Davis Snooker.

Interesting.

Also housed with the computer department were the “ever-popular” Atari and Colecovision TV games consoles which cost £49.99 and £39.99.

A row of computers against the wall next to books on the same subject.
A row of computers against the wall next to books on the same subject. Image: DC Thomson.

The record department was “bigger and more comprehensive than in the past” where the Top 20 albums were “all being offered at cut price”.

The range of blank cassettes was “better than ever” with a 5-pack of TDK tapes available for £4.99 and a triple pack available for £3.99.

A wide range of “cartoons and juvenile films” for children were available on Betamax and VHS for £9.99 each.

The famous John Menzies exterior at the new store.
The famous John Menzies exterior at the new store. Image: DC Thomson.

Record your own movie from TV?

Three blank VHS tapes would cost £14.

John Menzies was always known for and built its reputation on books and stationery including notebooks and binders with the distinctive blue, white and orange branding.

The book department offered “something to suit every taste among hardbacks, paperbacks, children’s books and bargain books”.

The range and selection available was “more interesting than in years gone by”.

Shoppers of a certain vintage will remember the bargain book range was situated just inside the store’s doors in 1984.

Children’s annuals were as popular as ever before with Oor Wullie “once again being the star attraction”.

The shelves were stocked with books in the new store. Image: DC Thomson.

Amongst all the titles available it was interesting to note that two of the bestsellers came from local authors in 1984.

Keith Brockie’s One Man’s Island had proved “an absolute winner” since it was published in October and Jim Wilkie’s Across The Great Divide, the history of professional football in Dundee, was proving a number one seller at Christmas.

The toy department was offering lots of cut price offers and “just about every kind of toy and game available”.

From Cluedo to Cabbage Patch dolls at John Menzies in Dundee

The range of games on offer was “quite mind-boggling” and included “Monopoly, Cluedo, Scrabble, Yahtzee and Othello turning up again from last year, alongside newcomers such as Trivial Pursuit, Frustration, Blankety Blank and Etch-a-sketch”.

Lego, jigsaws, Cabbage Patch dolls, Airfix kits and diecast toys were also on shelves.

The range of soft toys was “bigger than ever” including Sad Sam who was a “life-sized spaniel puppy wistfully gazing down at customers from his wicker basket chair”.

At £250 he proved to be a surprise favourite.

John Menzies posters advertising the store move and some of the special deals available.
Adverts in the Evening Telegraph show off some of the special deals. Image: DC Thomson.

Care Bears in all sizes and Poochie were two of the more popular new arrivals as well.

The Evening Telegraph said for girls there was the ever-popular Sindy and Barbie dolls, as well as the Cindico Buggy, priced at £9.99.

New lines introduced to the department in 1984 were My Big Desk at £13.75, a desk and chair for £8,99, and Holly Hobbies Secret Dolls House for £9.99.

A late arrival, selling at £9,99, was the Ice Cream Doll “which offers exceptional
value, as does her little sister, selling at only £6.99”.

Toys, dolls and Lego on display in the run up to Christmas in 1984.
Toys, dolls and Lego on display in the run up to Christmas 1984. Image: DC Thomson.

“For the boys” the range of Star Wars, Masters of the Universe and The A Team “lend themselves to lots of special offers”, and the B-wing fighter, the Y-wing fighter, At-At, Millennium Falcon and Roton “were all proving very popular” in 1984.

Crawl-Away dolls were proving a winner alongside the ever-popular Playful Penguins.

There was also the Super Buggy “which, at £4.99, will operate on both land and sea”.

Did anything take your fancy?

Jeffrey Archer’s best-seller? Michael Jackson’s Thriller LP?

The ZX Spectrum 48K? A five pack of blank cassette tapes?

The Oor Wullie annual? A-Team figures? A Care Bear?

Or maybe a £250 spaniel in a wicker basket chair?

What would you have bought at John Menzies 40 years ago?

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