please empty your brain below

There's an interesting selection of programmes about shops on BBC4 this evening, including at 11:10pm one that shows the history of Woolies. Might be worth a look to see them in their heyday.

I do wonder how much the ever-increasing over-concentration of Woolies on confectionary and CD/DVDs has led to their demise.

I shall miss their homeware (eg pyrex, bin liners, haberdashery) and cheap garden products, seeds and bulbs, hugely if they disappear.

I used to like Woolworths as a kid because it sold pick'n'mix including exotic Fruitellas which you couldn't get anywhere else. Blackcurrant was the best.

I worked in a Woolies store to pay my way through college and University, approx 15 years ago, and in the branch I was in there was always a uniformed security guard. The branch was in a rough part of north London, and we'd constantly get gangs coming in with empty sports bags to fill them full of (mainly) Barbie and Action Men dolls to sell on. Since the majority of staff were either 16/17 years of age or nearing retirement, none of us would dare to apprehend them, especially not for something like £1.10 per hour, so our panic-stricken fat security guard would take a slow stroll towards the toy section when we alerted him about a potential thief, and by the time he'd got there they'd gone... But he was very tough on old ladies who stole pick n mix.

This is a great shop. Isn't there a Big W somewhere in East London-or there was.

More Woolworth's fun...

It'll be sad to see Woolies go. For quite a few items they are the only place to get them in Clapham, where I live. Plus for the nostalgic reason that for five years as a teenager it was the Canterbury branch that fuelled my growing obsession with music - especially the bargain bins, where I was able to take advantage of the low prices to explore and listen to new things - including a 10p Prince single (bought purely because I liked the sleeve) which was the start of my journey to being a fan.

Of course these days their selection of music is rubbish, and it's cheaper to get it elsewhere.

The Leytonstone store still has *extremely* rare original doors -

Not forgetting the branch on Bethnal Green Road, that makes 4 woolies near DG.

Having had the privalage of living in Bow, Bethnal Green and Stratford a fair chunk of my household equipment has been obtained at Woolies.

Roman Rd. would be the worst loss, the street is desolate enough already...

There's (or at least, was) a Big W at the foot of Beckton Alp. One of the most joyless uninspiring shops I've ever been in.

Strange how just as we are supposedly 'trading down' a store at the cheap end of the market is doing so badly. I know things are bad because I keep hearing 'Ghost Town' by The Specials on the radio.

I also used to work part-time at Woolies when I was still at school. It seems a long time ago now, it was back in the mid 80s.

At the time Woolies was struggling, going through a bad patch, trying to work out what it should be selling etc. Exactly the same problems as now.

We also had a security guard/store detective, but in plain clothes. The number of people trying to walk out with stuff was unbelievable. Some people even tried to pinch a bag, then fill it with goods.

Our local branches of Wilkinsons, which seems to be just a Woolies clone, are packed. Woolies seems much emptier.

I hope they don't go. I'd miss them.

The difference (to me at least) is Wilkinson sells [generally] useful stuff and manages to maintain the impression of being a discount store. Woolworth's sells a little too much tat and never gives the impression you're saving money by going there.

That's interesting... since over on this side of the pond, we always think of Woolworth's as an american institution.

100 years of Woolworth's stores no doubt instills the culture into any nation where they happen to be. I'm guessing they're all about the same on the inside.

Usefulness is probably the key to their longevity.

On the road in north Slough where I used to live Woolworths and Superdrug are the only chain stores among the pound shops, takeaways, nail bars and Indian and Polish grocery shops. With bus fares into the town centre at 2 pounds each way, they will definitely be missed by the local shoppers.

Ah, all my cookware comes from the Poplar Wollies.

Wow, color me ignorant - I was not aware that there were still Woolworths stores anywhere; they don't exist anymore in the USA.

I can go further back: I was a Saturday girl in Woolworths in the mid '60s. I worked on the "deli" counter, bet you can't remember when Woolies sold fresh meat (joints etc), cold meats, delicatessen, cheese eggs & pies. All on the same counter too, don't suppose Health & Safety would allow that any more. Also used to help out on biscuits & at Christmas on decorations: dreadful place, if you dropped a glass ornament you were picking bits of it out of your feet for weeks!! Ah, Happy days!!

Also recall the deli counter. The Woolies in the Whitgift Centre in Croydon was on 2 floors, the ground floor was a dream shop as a kid with toys, records and all the gumph. But the 1st floor was a complete Woolies food hall. Wonderful cheap meats.

Hey, thank you to Jayne and Christine for reminding me of a long forgotten fact, which was that I too have worked at Woolworths.
Erm... and the memory that I flooded the place
It was the fruit counter. At the end of each day we had to take a swill bucket to the taps in a sort of 'cupboard under the stairs', to get rid of any bad fruit and get some clean water to wash down the counters.
Hmmm. Nothing specially difficult about that. Er, unless you dash off for a wee, leaving the tap running to fill the bucket... with a load of rotten peach bits clogging the sink.
Oddly enough, that was my last day of working at Woolworths...
As you say, happy days

Remember the UK stores with bare wooden floors, long counters and white-shaded gas lamps suspended from the ceiling for 'emergencies', gold on red fascia and weighing scales in the front window?

I'd love to know who invented the first lemon squeezer. It's simple and brilliantly designed, and no makeshift arrangement can do the job half as well.

Yes, Bowroad uk, I remember those stores with the gas lights.
Also the Woolworth "Embassy Records" cheap cover versions.
I think the Hounslow Woolworth still has a cafe.

More memories, RogerW. As "senior Saturday girl" one of my jobs was to scrub out the meat fridges on a Saturday afternoon, which was a good opportunity to spend some time, while working obviously (very strict staff supervisor!) planning the evening's activities with the then current boyfriend. Mind you the amount of hand cream needed before going out to make up for the lack of rubber gloves was legendary!!

I've just had a flashback to Woolies at Dartford. They had a basement section with a majestic double width staircase going down from the High St entrance and another set of stairs at the back.

As a treat mum would walk from the front to the back of the ground floor shop and us kids would run down the stairs, across the basement and up the other side to get there before her.

I was about 25 last time.

I worked at Woolworths in Roman Road and the one in Bethnal Green Road on Saturdays for 15/9d. I remember too the wooden floors and cafeterias (in the Mare Street one). Shame they're going. Woolworths here in Australia is a supermarket chain - just not the same

Woolworths used to be in Canada...Can't remember when they closed their doors, though. But certainly it's been awhile - too bad, as I remember them having all sorts of things to look through.

The Woolies in Palmers Green has had a security guard since 2003; I did a double-take as well when I noticed him for the first time! I'm pretty sure the Camden store had a guard last time I was there - and that's a branch which pre-dates the 'up-marketing' of the High Street with Waterstones, Marks and even Gap round the corner. It's been there for years ... I saw a rather antique one on a visit to Rye, which I think also had the red frontage and which seemed dusty but nice on the inside. None where I live now - but I'm all nostaligic for it!

As much a I love Woolworths, they have spent years deciding what kind of store they want to be. They failed with their MVC chain, they've played with the formats of their stores and even within them have experimented with Delis and cafes. It's a mess, and stores such as Wilkinson are doing it much better these days. Besides, most of their stores look tired and unloved.

Apart from a brief interlude, the Stratford branch has had competition from HMV for very many years. The original HMV closed in the late 1980s, being replaced with a 'Sounds Right' store until the mid 1990s. Even HMV forgot they had a store in Stratford in the past.

The problem with Woolworths is that it doesn't have any clear focus. Perhaps if they made it more obviously a hardware store (something that is very rare in town these days) they might be able to entice people back. Its much easier for me to buy my hardware and other random gubbins at Tescos/Sainsbury's these days.

As for Aussie Woolworths, did you know it was never related to the original US company, but just named after it? Strangely enough Aussie Woolworths also feels somewhat old fashioned, like a supermarket from the 1970s...

And funnily enough, Invicta, Woolies in Darford was where I scrubbed meat fridges!! The Christmas decorations counter was downstairs, and you just didn't see daylight all day!!

I think it's a great shame that Woolworths is now struggling financially. I remember, as a student, popping into Woolies to get myself some cheap stationery, and perhaps a bargain DVD or two.

However, I can see why Woolies is in trouble. A lot of the stores are disorganised, making it hard to find anything. Some of them look quite dated, and could perhaps do with a lick of paint. There's also the massive effect of the supermarkets and the Internet. Why go to Woolworths to get your cheap CDs when you can sit at home, order them from Amazon and get them delivered free? Online shopping is convenient, if you don't mind waiting a few days for the items to be delivered. Otherwise, you can now buy them, probably for the same price or less, at Tesco's with your groceries.

Hopefully Woolies will stay with us; it would certainly be a sad loss if it were to disappear from our High Streets.

Christine: Small World. I worked on the meat counter at Pricerite's Lowfield St in the mid'70s as a Saturday job. Sadly, went a long time ago.

One post from DG and Woolies goes bust...

Here's some interesting history of the building that was built on the profitability of Woolworth's early success.

I woked as a 'woolies girl just after the First World War - it was a lovely shop - I was at the Plamers Green branch. I left during the 1930s -

My time at Wollies was before World War 1 - 1907 - 09. I don't suppose anyone recalls me - I was at the Elephant and Castle store - is it still there? I haven't been back for years - I now live in a retirement home in Dorking.

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