Pioneer of civilized business in Moscow

What do Moscow and Scotland have in common? Quite a lot. In any case, Scots have played no minor role in the Russian capital’s history. It was them, for example, who taught Russians how to conduct civilized business: sales personnel should smile, you should be polite with your clients, you should not deceive them...

The Scottish trace

Let’s begin from the fact that the great Russian poet Mikhail Lermontov, who, by the way, was born in Moscow, had Scottish roots. His Scottish ancestors – namely the soldier George Lermont – appeared in Russia in the middle of the XVII century. Although Michael Andreas Barclay de Tolly was not born in Moscow, Scottish blood also flowed in the veins of this legendary Russian commander’s veins. His family also first appeared in Russia in the XVII century. Jacob Bruce (born as James Daniel Bruce)  – was Peter the Great’s closest devotee, also of noble Scottish birth. The famed architect Charles Cameron, who was invited to Russia by Catherine the Great, was also from Scotland. The two businessmen Andrew Muir and Archibald Mirrielees too are Scots. They arrived to Russia in their own right in the first half of the XIX century, though to Saint Petersburg and not to Moscow. Andrew and Archibald grew famous, however, precisely in Moscow, where in the end of the century they opened a store quite unique for Russia – Muir & Mirrielees. This store is still, a century later, well known to both Muscovites and guests of the city as TsUM.

The three-floor store opened their doors at the very start of Petrovka street. The location was a very fortuitous choice: nearby is Kuznetsky Most, a street filled with expensive stores, and the chique Petrovsky Passage was also located nearby.

Archibald MirrieleesAndrew Muir

A unique store

The store traded in lady’s hats and various goods. Fame came to the store immediately and spread across all of Russia – from Vladivostok to Warsaw, which at that time was part of the Russian Empire. People spoke of Muir & Mirrielees as a store where one could acquire goods of the highest quality. However, one did not need to go into the store itself to buy its goods. One could order them from the catalogue which came out four times a year and was distributed free of charge. The item ordered needed to cost more than 25 rubles. It should be noted that buying goods via catalogue was a novelty for its time.

There were a lot of things new and unheard of in Russia in general at Muir & Mirrielees. Business in the store was conducted at the highest level. The sales personnel were distinguished for their unbelievably polite behaviour, and items that the purchaser did not like could be exchanged. Such service had never been heard of in Moscow up to that time!

Muir & Mirrielees set fixed prices for their goods, which distinguished their store from similar Moscow fashion clothing stores. Those ladies who loved to bargain could be appeased only by the fact that the store sometimes – as a rule, during the summer – had sales. In order to prevent the sales personnel from deliberately overcharging the client and to stop the consumer from bargaining, the prices were shown directly on the item itself. De facto, one could say that the Scots taught Russians how to conduct civilized business!

Reconstruction in English Gothic style

However, November 24 1900 a grave misfortune befell the store. A large fire erupted at the building of the store on the corner of Teatralnaya square. This was the second fire to afflict the building, but this time the entire store burned down during the course of the night, leaving merely the walls.

The project for the construction of the new Muir & Mirrielees store building was entrusted to the architect Roman Klein. The Scottish ancestry of the store’s owners inspired the architect to create the store building in English Gothic style. The building’s metallic construction and frame were created by engineer Vladimir Shukhov. The overhaul and reconstruction was conducted by a German firm. The use of new European and American technology allowed for the creation of spacious rooms with enormous windows. Here, too,  Muir & Mirrielees were pioneers – reinforced concrete was used for the first time during the construction.

The new seven-floor building was opened on Christmas, 1908. The store was equipped with the latest in technology. Consumers could use electric elevators, and the reference and waiting rooms were equipped for comfort. By 1910 this was already the largest building in Moscow which traded in not just female hats and other goods, but also furniture, dishes, rugs and toys.

For children, a trip to Muir & Mirrielees was a true holiday. Breath-taking toys were sold here, with tags such as “Wooden horse with fur,” “Somersaulting bear in fur” …

People everywhere not only spoke of the famed store, but also wrote about it. It was mentioned in, for example, in Mikhail Bulgakov’s work “Heart of a Dog.”  Professor Preobrazhensky sends Zina to Muir’s for a collar for Sharik. «…Here are 8 rubles and 15 kopeks for the tram, head to Muir’s, buy a nice collar and chain,” wrote Mikhail Bulgakov in “Heart of a Dog”

Based on this, it should be assumed that Mikhail Bulgakov himself was a client of this store. In any case, it is certainly true that Anton Chekhov loved to buy what he needed at  Muir & Mirrielees. “Anton Chekhov was a frequent guest of this store. He bought hats, writing paper, and furniture for his house in Yalta here. He very much loved this store and even named his two dogs in honor of the owners of the store,” we read in the book Trips around the city with Pavel Lyubimtsev. Muir & Mirrielees  achieved the height of their glory with the opening of their new store. By 1913 the story had 80 departments. Based on the turnaround of their goods and stock and how the store was equipped, Muir & Mirrielees matched London department stores, even such as Harrolds.

Made well – sold well

After the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 the store was nationalized and soon after re-opened under the name “Mostorg.” The Scottish founders of the store – Andrew Muir and Archibald Mirrielees – during the large social-economic changes left Russia and returned to their homeland.

TsUM acquired its current name in 1933, which is an abbreviation for Central Universal Store. Incidentally, there were many stores in the USSR with the name TsUM, and they were located in practically in every capital of the 15 republics which were part of the Soviet Union. The most famous of them, of course, was the one in Moscow.

Incidentally, the store’s new name was not picked up immediately. For quite some time continued to call it by its first name of  Muir & Mirrielees. In any case, during Soviet times they continued to introduce new systems of business in the TsUM store. Thus in 1933 TsUm for the first time in the country organized experimental and demonstrative universal trade in high-quality manufactured goods at higher prices. Employees of the store constantly sought new forms of business and progressive methods of sale able to secure for the clients the best opportunities for choosing their goods to quicken the purchasing process.

For example, the TsUm group introduced the method of self-service. Further on a new step was taken in the development of progressive methods of business – payment for the goods could be payed to the cashier at the register set up on the counter. Thus, from year to year, owing to the initiative and creativity of the department store’s employees and experience from abroad and at home, new and more effective methods of business were spread, perfected, and created at TsUM.

With the goal of more complete satisfaction of the consumer’s demands, TsUM signed mutually-advantageous socialist agreements with industrial enterprises or with their factories, with the motto “made well – sold well.” Moreover, it became a tradition to have Quality Days, during which the department store’s employees visited the enterprises and conducted joint meeting, at which they passed on the consumers’ complaints about the quality and production of the goods, and also made suggestions. 70 of the store’s employees received the “Excellence in Soviet Trade” award.

During World War II, military barracks were set up in the spacious rooms of TsUM. After the war the building was returned to TsUM, and separate factories were added to the department store which released a wide range of goods made especially for TsUM by order. Moreover, amongst the usual in-demand goods, TsUM also sold: wicks for kerosene, mica, shopping bags with wooden handles and children’s brushes. In total the store carried up to 17 000 name goods daily, from needles to women’s fur coats.

The store’s development seemingly never ceased. During the 1970’s a new building was built nearby and the sales area expanded even more.

However, TsUM changed even more dramatically in recent times, as recently as 2003. The old Soviet interior was redone in alignment with the modern standards for department stores, and collections from leading fashion houses appeared in the store. Today, TsUM is a fashion store not in any way inferior to international equivalents.




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