The Menzies enterprise began when, following an apprenticeship and stint living in London, John Menzies opened his first bookshop in Edinburgh’s famous Princes Street in 1833. The original shop, which sold a range of print products and stationery, had relatively small beginnings, but Menzies went on to achieve national fame. Its success was partly secured when Menzies utilised his London contacts to procure the distribution rights to two major publications of the nineteenth century: Punch magazine, and the serialised works of Charles Dickens. Chapman & Hall, the publishers of Dickens’ first novel, chose Menzies as their agent in Scotland, and soon Dickens and Menzies became friends. These acquisitions no doubt played a part in the increasing prosperity of the firm, and in 1857 John Menzies took another equally successful move. Menzies opened its first railway bookstall - the company would later be known as ‘Menzies, the bookstall people’ - capitalising on the rise of rail travel. Menzies quickly expanded from small newsagent to national firm, and in 1859 the business moved from high street retail to wholesaling, acquiring a warehouse in Hanover Street. Menzies subsequently became the main distributor of newspapers to newsagents across Scotland.
Menzies continued to make use of the expanding railway, and in 1881 a Menzies bookstall was the first to open at the new Glasgow central station. As the trains got busier, so did the station stalls and so to cater to surging passenger numbers, Menzies began to experiment with stock, selling other items that might be useful on a train journey: hot water bottles, mitts, pipes, walking sticks etc.
When John Menzies died in 1879, his sons John and Charles took over the business. Moving into the twentieth century, the company continued to grow. By purchasing a motor vehicle in 1910, methods of distribution were able to evolve with new technologies. In the latter half of the century, the company obtained Scan International Group, enabling them to branch into the transport sector, and expand their distribution reach further. Air Menzies International was formed, offering international courier services. Today, the company is comprised of two areas: Menzies Aviation and Menzies Distribution.