John Lewis Visit | Stalham Farmers' Club | Leading speakers from the agricultural industry.

A procession of cattle along Ber Street, Norwich, in the early 1950s - past the newly-built Bonds shop - and probably before the NFU's Agriculture House was opened in July 1952. A behind-the-scenes briefing by one of Norwich’s leading retailers provided a fascinating insight into the rapidly-changing High Street economy. Richard Marks, who as head of branch at John Lewis has some 600 partners or staff, welcomed more than two dozen members. He was speaking in the Sandringham room, which was once home to shop staff in a row of four old cottages, complete with a Tudor window – and graced with a portrait of the branch’s founder, Robert Herne Bond, incidentally brought up at Hall Common Farm, Ludham. He had opened a drapers’ shop in Ber Street in February 1879. Mr Marks, who has been in retail for 34 years, said that the past dozen years had seen momentous changes. John Lewis, which has 43 branches and 320 Waitrose outlets, bought Bonds from the founding families in 1982. In November 2001, it became John Lewis and also opened on Monday and then also Sundays. The pace of online shopping, where John Lewis has now invested substantially, now accounted for more than one third of the total £4bn annual turnover. Mr Marks said that the Norwich branch was set to enjoy a record year – again – and that his team was tackling the online challenge with enthusiasm. Neil Jordan, chairman, presented Mr Marks with a green club tie – which matched the John Lewis corporate colour scheme, and thanked him for the visit. On a historical note, the directors of Bonds sold the adjoining site for Agriculture House, the home of Norfolk National Farmers’ Union, in about 1950. It cost about £14,000 to build and the county office was opened in 1952. The last holder of the county post, Ken Leggett, who stood down in 1991, was among the party of club members. The visit was originally suggested by Sarah Bebb, when her cousin, Isabel Macdonald, was then head of branch.