The Cole brothers, John, Thomas and Skelton, started a drapery business in 1847 that would become a Sheffield landmark. The business was expanding rapidly when all three brothers died between 1896 and 1902. In 1898, the business was registered as a Limited company and the next generation of Coles took over the growing enterprise into a successful department store. They first employed women in 1909. In 1919, the company sold to the Selfridge family, where Cole Brothers became part of the Selfridge Provincial Stores Group.