From clogs to clogs in three generations: the rise and fall of Boans Ltd 1895-1986

David John Hough

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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[Truncated abstract] 'Clogs to clogs in three generations' is a Lancashire proverb that describes the trajectory of many family businesses. A first generation of entrepreneurial 'prime movers', usually siblings with similar values and background, establishes a business enterprise. A second generation of 'managerial capitalist', from a more privileged background, takes the business to its zenith. The third generation often squanders the inheritance or lives as rentiers until the business is either liquidated or taken over by a competitor. Boans Ltd, a case study in business history, conforms to this profile. The economic downturn in the eastern colonies of Australia in the 1890s, particularly in Victoria, and the lure of gold in the Western Australian goldfields attracted not only those keen to get rich but merchants like Harry Boan. After a successful trial run in Broken Hill (1888-1895), he established Boan Bros in an unpromising but strategically located part of Perth's Central Business District, opposite the newly built Central Railway Station. Between 1895 and 1984 he built a drapery and dry goods business into a three-hectare department store that became the dominant retailer in Western Australia. In 1934 his youngest son, Frank, succeeded him as governing director of a business that by now was the largest private employer in the State. Supported by the team of good managers he inherited from his father, Frank cemented Boans Ltd's reputation and commercial success as Western Australia's pre-eminent department store and corporate citizen. In 1954 the family-owned business was floated on the stock exchange as a public company with Frank chairman of directors. Boans Waverley was opened in 1958, the first of six suburban and two regional shopping centres established by the time he died in 1967. Frank had no sons but two sons-in-law who had ultimate responsibility for the business as general manager and deputy general manager from 1978 until 1984.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012


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