The first Lewis’s was opened in 1856 in Liverpool by entrepreneur David Lewis, as a men’s and boys’ clothing store, mostly manufacturing his own stock.
In 1864, Lewis’s branched out into women’s clothing. In the 1870s, the store expanded and added departments, including shoes in 1874, and tobacco in 1879. Also in 1879, Lewis’s opened one of the world’s first ‘Christmas grottoes’ in Lewis’s Bon Marché, Church Street, Liverpool. It was named ‘Christmas Fairyland’. His motto was Friends of the People, and he intended the shopping experience to be inclusive.
The first Lewis’s outside Liverpool opened in nearby Manchester in 1877. Another store was opened, at the suggestion of Joseph Chamberlain, on the new Corporation Street in Birmingham in 1885. The Manchester store included a full-scale ballroom on the fifth floor, which was also used for exhibitions. Buying offices were also located on the fifth floor until a takeover by Liverpool-based competitor Owen Owen. A fourth store opened in Sheffield in 1884 but proved unprofitable and closed in 1888.