J.D.Williams Mail Order Catalogue

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J.D.Williams Mail Order Catalogue

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45% positive

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Review of "J.D.Williams Mail Order Catalogue"

published 16/06/2009 | magdadh
Member since : 30/11/-0001
Reviews : 175
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About me :
Pro variety of brands in plus sizes, wide fit shoes, good selection of underwear, 28 days to return
Cons a lot of polyester dross to wade through, really bad payment/account system
very helpful
Range of products
Value for Money
Speed of delivery


JD Williams is a mail order and Internet company that operates under several different brands targeting slightly different demographics: Simply Be, Via La Diva, Shoe Tailor, JD Williams itself and probably about twenty more others. I have no idea why it's in the "offline" shopping category here on dooyoo as its Mail Order and Internet parts are completely integrated and I can't see why anybody would NOT use the the online ordering.

All the websites have similar designs - a very busy and a rather shouty one that feels like some American shopping sites I occasionally look at - and you can log into all of them with the same customer number, although there doesn't seem to be a seamless transfer of the basket content from one to another.

The selection of items varies to some extent, and thus some are available on more than one website, and some are only available on one of them. This all can get a little bit confusing, to be honest, especially if you want to buy a pile of stuff to try on and keep one or two items after sending the rest back.


They stock a variety of items, mostly clothes, underwear and shoes; but also other stuff from domestic appliances to sex toys - and a variety of brands. Some are "real" brands, available in other retailers, and some are "pseudo" brands, just labels for what is essentially their own stuff.

They have a very good selection of clothes and underwear in plus sizes (some up to size 32) and even better selection of wide fit shoes.

The styles of clothes vary enormously. A lot of it consists of those dreadful flower-print viscose dresses that women of certain age seem to gravitate towards; "mother of the bride"type wedding outfits and shiny, jet and sequin studded tops. Polyester has a strong presence, as do those trousers (the word "slacks" comes to my mind here) with elasticated waist and tapered legs, claiming to be figure-enhancing (with names like Slimma!). A lot of their wares, again, remind me of sort of Middle-American middle-class 40-somethings, with big hair and mid-heel lady-like shoes.

But not all is dreadful in JD Williams land.

Among the dross, some decent plain(ish) casuals hide, most of those would be probably found under the Simply Be sub-brand.

They stock (exclusively) the surfers' brand Joe Brown's in plus sizes, although I am not entirely certain how successful that is, as many if not all of Joe Brown's clothes' designs doesn't exactly yield themselves to being worn by fat people. I did experimentally ordered a few items and they all looked great, until I put them on ("Mummy, you look like a lovely brown and yellow haystack" was one kind comment I received, and rightly so). Still, others looked beter and I was tempted to keep some.

Anna Scholz, a lower-rung sort of designer label for fat(er) women has also presence in JD Williams catalogue, and I also experimentally ordered a few things, but they went back as they are quite expensive and I don't have enough occasions to wear what are mostly going-out clothes.

I do buy quite a bit of underwear from JD Williams (or, technically, Simply Be) and they have an impressive selection, both under their own brands and others, including Gok Wan, Fantasie, Freya, Katie Price, Triumph and many more.

Shoes, though, are one item that JD Williams (technically, their sub-brands of Viva La Diva and Shoe Tailor) are particularly good at. I have had long, wide and high-arched feet all my life, well before I started to qualify as a plus size on clothing, and I find most of High Street shoes to narrow; particularly anything resembling a fashion shoe.

Viva La Diva sell a variety of fashion shoes in wide fittings (proper wide fittings, i.e. E or EEE, not just what passes for wide in most high street shops) and are pretty much the first place I would look for anything that's not a croc, trainer or a walking boot. They are mostly a bit girly, and some of the low-heeled ones tend to gravitate towards orthopaedic-looking styles ladies of 70+ wear, but there are enough that's not like that to make it worthwhile.

Prices are reasonable. I bought a couple of tops (along the lines of slightly dressier t-shirts/tunics) for around £25, the own brand shoes can be had for as little as £20-30 for leather ones, and there are frequent sales and reductions.

These are often slightly annoying, as only certain sizes or colours get reduced, and I sometimes get impression that some are "fake sales", with the items hardly ever having been sold at the full price; but it's possible to get some good bargains.

For clothing, the prices do go up (sometimes substantially) with size, which I don't approve of on principle, as surely the cost of material must be minuscule part of the cost of the items.
Shopping process and customer service

The website is usable enough, with pictures having a zoom facility, some even with a catwalk video. I would liek to see the fabric composition on all descriptions, as I dislike many man-made fibres; and it's not always specified what the fabrics are.

The basket is good and includes thumbnails of product images. The search is usable but not brilliant.

I would like to be able to keep the same basket when moving from sub-brand site to sub-brand site but it doesn't seem possible.

The biggest qualm I have with the whole JD Williams family is the way their payment process operates. They seem determined to make you use their credit system (for obvious reasons) and it actually requires a lot of attention bordering on cunning to pay by card there and then rather than "on account".

Last December, I managed to accidentally buy some things on account and ended up paying penalty charge of £12 for not paying it off on time - while I never intended to buy on credit at all.

It is possible not to have a credit account with JD Williams, but I had to request this specifically over the telephone. Such an option is not clearly given when shopping for the first time on the website at all.

The deliveries are quite quick - probably less than a week in most cases, and if there is to be a delay, they notify you when you are putting your items in the basket.

Larger parcels come with Home Delivery Network, and the returns can be collected in the same way or sent back via the Post Office.

This group of companies has possibly one of the most generous time limits for returns, as you have full 28 days to send your unwanted clothes back, and they might accept them later too, albeit with a (discretionary) admin fee. The refunds I had were reasonably efficient, usually appearing well within the two weeks the company specifies.

You can call JD Williams call centre, and it's staffed by UK-based people who tend to understand what you want and how to deal with your query without particular problems. The number is 0871, but the waiting times are usually very short or non-existent.


I would cautiously recommend JD Williams and their sub-brands, as they offer a large selection of plus sized clothes and wide-fit shoes at pretty reasonable prices. A lot of it is quite dire, but there is some good stuff not available elsewhere. The underwear selection is great and at good prices.

I dislike their rampantly money-grabbing approach to the whole issue of selling on account and the hectic and pushy manner in which supposed sales and reductions are advertised.

They also send masses of paper junk mail, but I don't really mind that. I suspect that if I didn't untick the phone and email communications' buttons, they would tend to send a lot of spam and cold callers your way: this seems to be the JD Williams style.

Star-wise, it's probably about 3.5, so I will give it an optimistic 4 - mostly because of this 28 day return time line.

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Comments on this review

  • retireduser published 18/06/2009
    Very well reviewed. ^_^
  • MALU published 17/06/2009
    I once entered a shop for fat people because I liked what I had seen in the shop window but I wasn't fat enough. :-(
  • mumsymary published 17/06/2009
    thanks shall try them as my feet ate wide long and high arched too . have always had a prob finding shoes
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Product Information : J.D.Williams Mail Order Catalogue

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Listed on Ciao since: 29/01/2001