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The wonder of Woolworths?

Woolworths opened its first UK store in Liverpool 99 years ago. But now it's going into administration. Gutted? Or haven't you been in for years?

Published on December 9th 2008.


The wonder of Woolworths?

The Results...

Yes: - 30%
No: - 70%

GOOD old Woolies. With its array of everyday goods such as DVDs, Pick n Mix and Chad Valley toys, it's as firmly implanted on the high street as the paving stones themselves. But maybe not for much longer.

The 99-year-old retail giant, the first UK store opened in Church Street in 1909 - has gone into administration. It's no secret that over the years the love for Woolies has withered on the vine, lost in that old fashioned world of everything under one (smallish) roof – a glorified pound shop with most things costing more than £1.

It's tragic really looking back at how popular it used to be in the 1970s and 1980s. Indeed, the Church Street opening prompted this lively report fin the Liverpool Courier:
"Many thousands of people yesterday afternoon and evening availed themselves of the opportunity afforded by the proprietors, Messrs. F. W. Woolworth & Co. Ltd., of inspecting their new stores atChurch Street and Williamson Street.

The handsome premises, formerly occupied by Henry Miles & Co., were thronged the whole time they were open, many no doubt attracted by the novel character of the business transacted. 6D is the highest price charged for any single article in the establishment, but the variety of articles obtainable is infinite.

Though none were on sale, the goods were laid out ready for the commencement of business to-day, and occasioned the visitors considerable surprise in the matter of their exceptional value.

Two orchestras were engaged in discoursing music yesterday, and there was a constant run on the tea room where the proprietors supplied free teas to all who were fortunate enough to reach the room through the crush."

No surprise then that the Daily Mail of the day, scaremongering at its best, had a less enthusiastic reaction. They likened Frank Winfield Woolworth to Barnum and suggested that the

Liverpool location had been chosen so that when it failed the pioneers could make a quick escape through the docks and back to America, leaving their debts behind them.

As it turned out, the only runaway success was the store, but 100 years on, many say its modest PR and marketing outlook has rendered it incapable of competing in the modern retailing rat race.

Speaking of pound shops (and you can now buy the place for £1), the collapse of Woolworths could spark further discounting as administrators try to clear stock in the run up to Christmas - hitting the profitability of other retailers.

"Every cloud..." some hard-up Christmas shoppers might say.

Of course on the other side of that pound coin, the place has been very good for last minute purchases of miscellaneous stuff down the years. More seriously it employs 25,000 people who now face a bleak Christmas, sadly far and away removed from the jingle bells TV ads of the store in its glittering heyday.

So vote on the Homepage, yes or no, in your book has Woolworths had its day or will you miss it?

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19 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

LouiseNovember 26th 2008.

I am gutted. I haven't got a car and rely on my local Woolies for lots of things. It's a lovely store and the Ladybird children's clothes are far superior in quality to anything Asda does. Sad time for all those staff right now.

DigNovember 26th 2008.

Woolies is finished unless it reinvents its identity fast. Mobile phones, games consoles, music, DVD/Blu Ray & books. Who automatically thinks of Woolies when going out to purchase any of those? I would hazard a guess at just the staff and their friends and families and only for the staff discount. Maybe a few people who live right by one for convenience too. It's not quite a dinosaur yet as it isn't extinct. Unfortunately, like the Swinhoe soft shell turtle, I think it will be soon.”

RasputinNovember 26th 2008.

It's the curse of Capital of Culture again.

AnonymousNovember 26th 2008.

Lovely to see the pictures ans the reports of the Church Street Woolies. I had no idea it was the first in Britain. How sad.

Elizabeth Quince - GrassendaleNovember 26th 2008.

Fond memories of Woolworths. As a girl I remember Nurse taking the other children and I to the store for a quick muffin. How exciting to smell the coffee beans all over the shop, and so awful in the 1960s when it caught fire Happy days!

maryNovember 26th 2008.

Let it die for heavens sake. One of Liverpools biggest problems (apart from car theft, drugs, teenage pregnancies,racism, and burglary) is living in some mythical past of poor but honest scouse comedians with hearts of gold.Woolworth was always a paupers shop and remains on the lowest rung of the high street. The £1 shops are the modern equivalent and offer much better value.

denis the menaceNovember 26th 2008.

Yes, I did my first act of shoplifting in Woolies in old Swan. It was a PP3 battery as I remember. What have other readers successfully shoplifted from Woolworths?

Big AlNovember 26th 2008.

A tube of Airfix glue when I was eleven from Church Street to brandish my 'town-boy' credentials to a mate from our street. It was my only time, honest, guv'nor...

Little NormNovember 26th 2008.

I bought my first electronic calculator from Woolies in Old Swan in about 1978. It was £2.99 (a lot of money in those days) and had a tiny red LED display. I took it apart when the battery went flat.

DiggaNovember 26th 2008.

I nicked a pair of sunglasses and a big bar of chocolate from the Southport Woolies on a weekend jaunt with my school mates. One of the lads wasn't the brightest spark. We got him to go back and try to get a refund on the sunglasses! They let him go before the police arrived when he started crying and promised he'd never go back. Oh happy days. Going home we got on the wrong train at Sandhills on purpose then jumped off as the doors were closing. He cried again as we waved to him as he disappeared on route to Town on his own while we waited for the Kirkby train.

AnonymousNovember 26th 2008.

You nasty ba****d

DigNovember 26th 2008.

Strange. I put my full nickname then. Never mind. Back to being 'Dig'.

Curtis WarrenNovember 26th 2008.

I was that boy...

DigNovember 26th 2008.

He shouldn't be crying so much. It was last summer and he's 31.

AnonymousNovember 26th 2008.

It would serve you right if it was Curtis Warren.

DigNovember 26th 2008.

I'm so sorry Anonymous. I'm so ashamed of myself. By way of an apology let me take you for a drink one night. I hear Southport has a few nice boozers.

youngerthantwiggyanywayNovember 26th 2008.

In my opinion Woolies lost the plot completely when it hired some twit to re-market its image and styling about eight years ago. Every ounce of old world charm was squeezed out if its stores across England and replaced by sterility in its most depressing modern form. For instance, in Waterloo, the beautiful old ornate ceiling was covered up by a lower flat one with bright floursecent lights. This kind of styling was carried across the store, and epitomized by the increasing blandness of the goods for sale. For a short while Woolies tried to be a a truncated form of boots, B&Q, Comet and Toysrus all rolled in one and therein lay the problem. It abandoned its quirkiness and tried to compete where it could not, instead of embracing its own specialness and concentrating this

poloNovember 26th 2008.

Where am I gonna steal sweets from now?Go on admit it, you ALL did it!

silver tiaraNovember 26th 2008.

ahh Woolies i remember there being one in Dingle on Park Road my mum wanted to buy me a chimpanzee cuddly toy but i was soo scared of it i screamed the shop down! i was only 3 at the time! there was no pick n mix then!

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