Woolworths Group logo 2001–2009
|Woolworths Group, Woolies|
|Traded as||LSE: WLW NYSE: WLW|
|Industry||Retail and distribution|
|Fate||Administration and Closed|
|Predecessor||F W Woolworth & Co. Ltd|
|Founded||Liverpool, Merseyside, England (1909) (opening of F.W. Woolworth's first British store)
2001 (as Woolworths Group)
|Founder||Frank Winfield Woolworth|
|Defunct||6 January 2009 (Stores)|
|Headquarters||Marylebone Road, London, England|
|UK and Ireland|
|Richard North, Chairman
Steve Johnson, CEO
|Owner||Woolworths Holdings, LLC. (100%)|
Number of employees
|400 (As of 2009)|
|Parent||Public Limited Company
(formerly Woolworth Holdings plc)
|Divisions||Woolworths plc, EUK Ltd. (Both in administration)|
|Subsidiaries||Big W (UK)
Entertainment UK (Defunct)
Ladybird (owned by Shop Direct)
2 Entertain (Co-owned with BBC)
Woolworth Records (defunct)
|Slogan||Well Worth It|
Woolworths Group PLC was a listed British company that owned the high-street retail chain, Woolworths, as well as other companies such as the entertainment distributor Entertainment UK and book and resource distributor Bertram Books. The Woolworths store chain, which had more than 800 stores immediately prior to closure, was the main enterprise of the group, selling many goods and having its own LadyBird children's clothing ranges, Chad Valley toys and the WorthIt! value ranges. The chain was the UK's largest supplier of Candyking "pic 'n' mix" sweets. It was also sometimes referred to as "Woolies" by the UK media, the general public, and occasionally in its own television commercials.
On 26 November 2008, the trading of shares in Woolworths Group PLC was suspended and the Woolworths and Entertainment UK subsidiaries entered administration. Woolworths Group PLC also entered administration on 27 January 2009. The administrators Deloitte closed all 807 Woolworths stores between 27 December 2008 and 6 January 2009 resulting in 27,000 job losses.
On 2 February 2009 it was announced that the Shop Direct Group had purchased the Woolworths and Ladybird names and these would survive as a brand within the internet based shopping company. The Woolworths shopping website closed in June 2015.
- 1 History
- 2 Slogans & Brands
- 3 Woolworths Christmas Catalogues (1929–2008)
- 4 Logos
- 5 Aftermath of insolvency in the UK
- 6 Disasters
- 7 Music
- 8 Cafes
- 9 Subsidiaries
- 10 Brands
- 11 References
- 12 External links
The British branch of the F. W. Woolworth Company, which had been founded in Pennsylvania, F W Woolworth & Co, Ltd was founded by Frank Woolworth in Liverpool, England on 6 November 1909. Frank Woolworth had ancestry in Woolley, Cambridgeshire — Frank claimed he had traced his ancestry through the Founding Fathers of the district to a small farm in middle-England. When Frank eventually travelled to England in 1890, he docked in Liverpool and travelled by train to Stoke on Trent for the purchase of china and glassware for Woolworth's ranges, but also noted his love of England in his diary and his aspirations for bringing the Woolworth name to England;
|“||I believe that a good penny and sixpence store, run by a live Yankee, would be a sensation here.||”|
During the buying trip, Woolworth met a young clerk, William Lawrence Stephenson, who was recommended to him by John Wanamaker. Wanamaker had established a large chain of department stores across the United States and was one of Woolworth's heroes. Stephenson was invited to London to meet Woolworth again, and was offered the job as director of the new company, which he accepted.
Internal concerns with British stores
After the idea for the creation of British stores, Frank Woolworth had offered invitations to store managers in the United States to open up stores in the UK and had only received offers to take positions at the time of his illness in March 1909 from Fred Woolworth of the Sixth Avenue and Samuel Balfour of the 14th Street stores in New York City. After these initial offers, Byron Miller, a superintendent in a Boston store, also offered his assistance and set sail with the other volunteers on the Steamer, Kaiserin Auguste Victoria on 29 May 1909 for England from Hoboken.
Although Frank Woolworth expected other members of staff to admire the volunteers in establishing FW Woolworth & Co in Britain, vice president and general manager of FW Woolworth & Co, Carson C. Peck had reservations with enlisting staff members to travel to Britain, questioning whether Woolworth had indeed created the new business adventure following a dream, or due to his dissatisfaction with the current condition of the American branch.
Peck also asked those who were willing to volunteer to reconsider their decision, claiming that those who had volunteered were unaware of the uncertainty and risks involved and that some were only tentatively willing to engage in Woolworth's new endeavour: His concerns mainly entered on the fact that the majority of the managers who followed the decision did so out of loyalty to Woolworth, and that moving such a valuable resource already established in the United States to what was a financially unproven "Little Infant" in the UK would have a detrimental effect upon the "Bread and Butter" of the Company.
|“||To me it seems that these return sheets are in danger of being misunderstood and that it is a good deal like asking a boy to volunteer to go into a bear's den when he does not know whether he is to eat a nicely cooked luscious bear's steak, or be eaten by a great, big black bear.||”|
—Carson C. Peck
Inauguration of British stores
Despite reservations such as Peck's, the decision to launch stores in the United Kingdom went ahead as previously planned by Woolworth. He considered several locations for the first stores, together with future possible sites. The chosen location for the first store was 25 - 25A, Church Street and 8, Williamson Street Liverpool  (the street addresses of the different entrances). It opened on 5 November 1909 with a performance by a full orchestra, circus acts and fireworks.
As a means of adherence to American trading tradition, only viewing of items was allowed on the first day of the shop's opening. This included guests being given complimentary tea while being entertained by a traditional brass band in the refreshment room. The event was reported positively by the local newspaper, the Liverpool Courier, which praised the decor of the stores along with the value and range of items on sale.
Despite local press praise, the British national newspaper The Daily Mail likened Frank Woolworth to Phineas Taylor Barnum and claimed that the store location had been decided as part of a contingency plan in the event of failure so as to facilitate escape from any financial liability. Despite these reservations, the store proved to be a success; large queues outside and low priced 3d. and 6d. ("threepenny and sixpenny") items leading to it being almost stripped bare of goods before the end of the first day of trading and being attributed to mass purchased mass-produced foreign and local goods.
At the onset of the First World War, F.W. Woolworth & Co. had 40 stores in Great Britain and Ireland located in most major cities - from which a total of 57 staff including store managers had enlisted; the majority of whom did not return after the end of the war in 1918. Despite American staff again offering their services to the Woolworths branches in Britain, remaining staff increased their efforts to cope with the lack of staff members throughout the war with several staff members being promoted to managerial positions.
Stores in the United States, which were then stocking ranges also present in British stores were dependent upon European manufacturers which had adopted newer production methods than their American counterparts.
After the First World War, the company continued to expand with the opening of further branches. By 1923 there were 130 branches, and William Lawrence Stephenson (1880–1963) became managing director. He implemented a strategy of major expansion, with the company buying or building freehold properties. Many of the stores had distinctive faience tiled art deco frontages. The expansion was funded entirely out of earnings and without any borrowing or further capitalisation. The 400th branch, at Southport, Lancashire, opened on 12 July 1930, and the company was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1931. The US parent company reduced its holding in the company to 51.7% at that time. In 1934, the 600th store was opened, in Wallington in Surrey.
Expansion was effectively suspended between 1940 and 1950, due to the Second World War and post-war restrictions, but then resumed. The 800th branch, at Wilton Road, Victoria, London, opened in September 1953. On 22 May 1958, the 1000th branch (known as "Portslade" to distinguish it from the existing Hove branch) opened in Boundary Road, Hove. The peak of 1,141 branches was reached in the late 1960s. From then until the US parent sold out in 1982, a number of branches were closed and sold, and at the time that ownership shifted to the UK, there were about 1,000 branches.
Woolworths tried the large out of town store or hypermarket format in the 1960s with the Woolco stores. While some of these stores were closed, the majority were sold to the Dee Corporation in the early 1980s and re-opened as Gateway hypermarkets, later being taken over by Asda.
In 1969, one of Woolworths' flagship stores on Briggate in Leeds suffered a major fire. The store, which opened in 1913, was spread over four floors and sustained extensive damage, requiring a total refit. The store was not open to the public at the time and all staff were evacuated, avoiding fatalities, although some staff suffered minor injuries. It took several hours for the fire to be fully extinguished.
Split from parent company and after
In 1982, the British Woolworths was acquired by Paternoster Stores Ltd, the forerunner of Kingfisher plc. Woolworths Group plc was formed by the demerger of Kingfisher's general merchandise business, and began trading as a listed company on the London Stock Exchange on 28 August 2001, using the symbol WLW.
In 1984, Woolworths' stores in Ireland, trading as F. W. Woolworth Ireland closed. In August 1996, market research was undertaken by Woolworths' Belfast District Office, which investigated opportunities to re-enter the Republic of Ireland market. In a project commissioned by the then Northern Ireland District Manager Bruce Strang, a total of 32 potential locations were identified that could support a Woolworths store. However, the project did not proceed beyond the market research phase.
During the 1980s, management rationalised merchandise lines into clearly defined categories: entertainment, home, kids (toys and clothing) and confectionery. During this time many Woolworths branches were downsized. Older branches in major cities were sometimes almost as large as the major department stores nearby. For instance in 1987, Woolworths left their five floor branch on Briggate in Leeds which they had occupied since 1913 (now occupied by House of Fraser) and kept only their smaller single level branch in the Merrion Centre in an area of the city centre which generally saw a lesser footfall, of shoppers who were generally on a lower budget.
In the late 1990s, the management extended the Woolworths brand into other retail formats and alternative channels to accelerate growth by taking advantage of changing retail trends. Some larger format stores were opened under the Big W brand, similar to Wal-Mart in the US. Although initially successful, the format ultimately failed to catch on; the original plan had relied upon leveraging the involvement of other Kingfisher group retailers, but following the de-merger this was no longer possible. Following a period of losses, Woolworths confirmed in 2004 it would abandon the Big W concept. The group sold 7 of the 21 Big W stores in 2005 to Tesco and Asda. The gross internal floor area of the remaining sites was reduced to an optimum trading size of around 40,000 to 50,000 square feet (4,600 m2). Following this, they were rebranded as Woolworths Out of Town stores.
The newly independent Woolworths faced severe competitive and financial pressures. The market for physical copies of music, one of Woolworths main money spinners, slowed in the early 21st century; specialist music chains such as Our Price collapsed. The major supermarket chains expanded into many of Woolworths product areas, and fast expanding Wilkinson challenged it directly on the high street.
Woolworths did not generally follow the trend started in the 1980s of opening stores at out-of-town relocations. One of its few out-of-town stores opened at the Merry Hill Shopping Centre in 1989, but this closed within a few years due to disappointing trade.
In an attempt to raise the group's corporate profile, under the chairmanship of Gerald Corbett, Woolworths sponsored a show garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2004. Designed by a group of graduate students from Pickard School of Garden Design, including Karl Rushen, Catherine Gamble, Bella Montgomery, Darryl Moore and Rob Whitehead, the contemporary-formal style garden was awarded a silver medal.
In Summer 2006 the business launched an in-store collection service for items ordered on their website or in-store, to complement the already established in-store ordering system. In late September 2006, the "Big Red Book" was launched. This was designed to be a direct competitor of the Argos catalogue.
Woolworths launched the WorthIt! brand as a value range in 2007. The first advertising campaign for the brand aired on 15 June 2007 and introduced the characters of Wooly the sheep and Worth the sheepdog. Further advertising campaigns featured celebrities such as Rolf Harris, Jackie Chan and Kelly Osbourne. The brand covered a wide variety of products including confectionery, electricals, alcohol, jewellery, perfumes and clothing.
In July 2008, the board rejected a bid from Iceland founder Malcolm Walker to buy Woolworths' 819 stores for £50m. Walker's bid did not include Entertainment UK or the stake in 2 Entertain, and also avoided taking on Woolworths' debt and pension liabilities.
On 12 August 2008, Woolworths Group announced the appointment of Steve Johnson, former chief executive officer of Focus DIY, to the post of chief executive. He replaced Trevor Bish-Jones, who had left in June. Woolworths scrapped its interim dividend in September 2008, after it announced a pre-tax loss of £99.7m for the six months to 2 August. At the same time, Johnson outlined a possible turnaround plan to sell 120 stores, axe a quarter of its products, reduce web operations and cut jobs.
At that time, the retailer's largest shareholder was Iranian property developer Ardeshir Naghshineh, with a 10.2% stake. A consortium led by Icelandic investor Baugur, called Unity owned a 10% stake in Woolworths. In October 2008 Sir Alan Sugar, founder of electronics firm Amstrad, increased his stake in Woolworths to around 4%. Theo Paphitis, owner of stationery retailer Ryman, also stated his interest in the company.
Administration and closure
On 19 November 2008, The Times reported that the Woolworths' retail business was a target for restructuring specialist Hilco UK, who would buy the retail arm for a nominal £1; this was confirmed the same day. The deal would have left Woolworths Group with its profitable distribution and publishing businesses and a reduced debt load. Ardeshir Naghshineh criticised the plan, recommending instead that the company sell some of the stores to raise more funds.
The group's banks, GMAC and Burdale, rejected the deal and recalled their loans, forcing the group to place the retail business and Entertainment UK into administration. On 26 November 2008, the trading of shares in Woolworths PLC was suspended, and Neville Kahn, Dan Butters and Nick Dargan of Deloitte were appointed joint administrators. When the company entered administration it had a debt of £385 million. The administrators announced that they were aiming to keep the company as a going concern over the crucial Christmas period, although analysts feared that any heavy discounting would create a domino effect and drag down other high street retailers. Deloitte later announced they had received "substantial interest" in Woolworths.
When news of Woolworths' entry into administration was widely publicised, National Lottery operator Camelot Group immediately suspended Woolworths from selling their lottery tickets and scratch cards, as well as preventing claimants from redeeming prizes at the stores.
On 5 December, Woolworths both recorded their greatest single day takings of £27 million, and axed 450 head office and support staff jobs. A closing-down sale started on 11 December.
On 17 December 2008, administrators announced that all 807 Woolworths stores would close by 5 January 2009 (later changed to 6 January), with 27,000 job losses. Deloitte's Neville Kahn also said that it was unclear how much of Woolworths' debt would be paid. In the last few days of trading discounts of up to 90% were offered, and a number of stores sold all of their stock, many selling all of their fixtures and fittings too.
- 207 stores closed on 27 December 2008
- 37 closed on 29 December
- 164 closed on 30 December
- 200 closed on 3 January 2009
- remaining stores (199) closed on 6 January 2009
The former chief executive of Kingfisher, Woolworths' former parent company, and Ardeshir Naghshineh, a major shareholder of Woolworths, criticised the closures.
On 19 January 2009, the parent company, Woolworths Group, announced its intention to also enter administration, as it could no longer pay its debts. The application was heard by the High Court on 27 January, and Woolworths Group PLC entered administration.
The trade unions complained of the collective redundancies and they started various legal actions before the UK tribunals based on the absence of proper consultation of the employee representatives. The UK Court of Appeal referred the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union which partially disagreed with the unions by an important decision of 30 April 2015.
Slogans & Brands
- Your Money Worth More At Woolworth's - (1950s–1970s)
- Woolworth with the Woolco's logo - (1970s?–1980s)
- A great deal for the family - (1980s–1993)
- Right Up Your Street For Value - (1993–2002; after the split with Kingfisher plc in 2001)
- Woolworths with Wooly and Worths - (2002–2008)
- 'Well Worth It' - (2008–2009; still seen on Woolworths.co.uk's website until 2015) (last slogan: 2009–15 for Woolies online)
- Wooly 'n' Worth - (2003–08, 2009; also seen on Woolworths.co.uk)
- Stan and Ollie - (2009–11, 2012; only seen on Woolworths.co.uk for Christmas)
Big Red Book
|Year founded||September 2006|
|First issue||September 2006 (first Catalogue)|
|Final issue||January 2009 (final Catalogue)|
|Website||The Big Red Book website|
The Big Red Book was launched in September 2006 – January 2009 when Woolworths closed, June 2009 The ''Big red book" moved to Woolworths.co.uk until 2012 when it was closed since 2012 the big red book wasn't been seen. See Woolworths Christmas Catalogues (1929–2008)
In 2007, Woolworths launched the WorthIt! Brand as a value range The first advertising campaign for the brand aired on 15 June 2007 and introduced the characters of Wooly the sheep and Worth the sheepdog. The brand closed in January 2009. worth It! Didn't moved to the online store Woolworths.co.uk but there's a possibility it might return one day in the future.
Woolworths Christmas Catalogues (1929–2008)
|Final issue||January 2009 (possibly return)|
|Company||F. W. Woolworth & Co|
Woolworths Christmas Catalogues is a Christmas catalogue published by Woolworths plc founded in 1929 its first issued in 1930 and final issued in 2009 when The Woolworths Group went into Administration
Woolies Winder Wonderland (1997–2006)
In 1997 Woolworths renamed the catalogue to Woolies Winder Wonderland until 2006 when it got renamed to The Big Red Book until closure of The Woolworths Group Plc in 2009 after it went in administration.
The Big Red Book (2006–2009)
In 2006, woolworths renamed the catalogue to The Big Red Book until closure of Woolworths Stores in 2009 after entering administration, in June 2009 Woolworths.co.uk was opened as an online store by Shop Direct Group until June 2015 when the online brand closed by Shop Direct.
Possible return rumours
In early 2015 rumours was that Woolworths would be returning to the high streets but there hasn't been any conformed news.
The Woolworth logo (from around the 1970s until around 1985)
The Woolworths Group PLC logo (2001–2009; entered administration 2009)
The Woolworths.co.uk current logo (2009–present; closed until further notice)
Aftermath of insolvency in the UK
The administrators announced on 10 December 2008 that they were having difficulty selling the company as a going concern, and as a result some stores might close before the end of the month. Talks were still progressing to sell individual stores and leases to a number of retailers, said to include the supermarket chains Morrisons, Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's, The Co-operative Group and Poundland.
In December 2008, Woolworths executive Tony Page was trying to raise around £30 million to relaunch the brand after closure with a chain of 125 stores. However, a deal could not be met in time. The government were also asked in a final attempt to make the deal but without success.
The supermarket chain Iceland bought 51 of the stores on 9 January 2009 for an undisclosed sum. Baugur, one of the major shareholders of Woolworths, partly owns Iceland, and Baugur UK itself entered administration in February. A further five former stores in Wales were bought by The Original Factory Shop in April 2009. Across the UK stores were sporadically replaced by other retailers such as Next, Boyes, Boots, Primark, TK Maxx, Home Bargains, and W H Smith.
In August 2010 the BBC reported that over 300 (i.e. approximately 40%) of ex-Woolworths stores remained empty, and that the largest group now using former Woolworths stores were discount retailers such as Poundland. By January 2012, it was reported that there were still 105 empty former Woolworths stores, and a further 68 had been demolished.
According to press reports on 17 February 2009, Tony Page planned to open a chain of shops adopting the Woolworths format, but under a different name, with an initial 50 stores under the Alworths fascia. A store opened under the Alworths name on 5 November 2009 in Didcot, on the site of a former Woolworths store, without the involvement of Page. By January 2011, 18 stores had been opened, although in April the company also entered administration and closed.
The Woolworths store in Dorchester, Dorset was reopened as an independent business named Wellworths by the store manager Claire Robertson. The store was officially opened by BBC Radio 2 DJ Chris Evans on 11 March 2009. It was later renamed Wellchester.
Wellchester ceased trading in August 2012, after store manager Claire Robertson left to set up her own retail consultancy business.
The Woolworths brand and URL was bought by Shop Direct Group, owned by Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, on 2 February 2009. The company announced it would relaunch Woolworths as an online retail store. The website was launched on 26 June 2009. It was entirely independent of the former Woolworths Group. It has been closed until further notice since June 2015.
New Cross, London
Many branches of Woolworths suffered severe bomb damage and even destruction during the Luftwaffe attacks in the early part of the Second World War. However it was towards the end of the war that the largest civilian loss of life due to direct enemy fire in Britain during the conflict occurred when, at lunchtime on 25 November 1944, a German V-2 rocket fell on a packed Woolworths store in New Cross Road, killing 168 people (including 15 children), injuring 122 others and razing the building to the ground. The neighbouring London Co-operative Society store was also demolished in the attack.
The store was especially busy as news of a delivery of hard-to-obtain saucepans generated huge crowds, many of whom were queueing outside the store at the time of the rocket's impact.
Planning and economic restrictions after the war meant Woolworths did not build a replacement store on the site until 1960; this closed in 1984. It was reported that some employees there felt the building was haunted.
Lewisham Council and Woolworths erected a plaque on the site commemorating those who died that day.
A serious fire erupted just after 1pm on 8 May 1979 at the Manchester store opposite Piccadilly Gardens, said at the time to be the largest Woolworths in Europe, with six floors plus two basement levels. The fire, which started in the second floor furnishing department, killed ten shoppers and one member of staff; of whom three were found just six feet away from an exit with another three bodies nearby. Of the 12 calls made to the fire service that day, none came from the store itself. It is believed that the fire was started by a damaged electrical cable, which had furniture stacked in front of it. An inquiry showed that, although the store's fire precautions met all legal requirements, the spread of the fire and the high number of casualties were in part due to the absence of measures such as a fire sprinkler system to stop the spread of the fire from the furniture department, and the use of polyurethane foam in the furnishings, a material which is highly inflammable and highly toxic but cheap and at that time legal in furniture; however, this would have consequences for later legislation.
The second floor was gutted by the fire, while the third floor suffered severe smoke damage; the ground, first and second floors all received extensive water damage when the fire was extinguished. Due to the loss of life and devastation to the Manchester store, the Fire Research Station conducted a number of tests to develop sprinkler systems that could handle a similar large department store fire. However, there is still no requirement for United Kingdom retailers to have a sprinkler system in place, with many preferring to focus on evacuation procedures rather than fire containment. The catastrophe also resulted in modifications to the Fire Precautions Act and was among the factors that led to the ban on the use of polyurethane foam in home furnishings (a long-time concern of the Fire Service) forcing furniture manufacturers to develop new fabrics and materials for sofas and other items.
The fire brought graphic images into the public consciousness (including footage of office girls trapped behind barred windows on the top floor) due to the store's location next to the then studios of BBC Manchester (above the National Westminster Bank) and near to those of Granada Television, the offices of the Manchester Evening News and the northern offices of several national newspapers.
The disaster has become a significant object of study for academics interested in the behaviour of people in emergency situations, after research showed a number of customers (predominately in the public restaurant area) refused to leave despite the sounding of alarms, requests from staff and even the smell and visibility of smoke; some even continued to queue at an abandoned check-out. The majority of those who perished were in this area.
The store subsequently re-opened but eventually closed in 1986. The site became an amusement arcade for many years, until the building owners evicted the tenants in favour of a building renovation to house a 157-room Travelodge, a Morrisons convenience store, and Zizzi and Nandos restaurants.
Woolworths did have several smaller outlets during the 1990s which sold music and confectionery. Smaller outlets with a similar format were also tried at the Sheffield Meadowhall Shopping Centre, but closed in 2003; the Manchester Music and Video store was superseded by a larger MVC store, owned by Woolworths Group.
Bangor, County Down
Woolworths' store at 18/22 Main Street, Bangor, County Down, Northern Ireland (Store No. 380) was targeted by terrorists on 30 March 1974 as part of co-ordinated incendiary bomb attack on the town centre.
At 5pm, a telephone warning was received that fifteen incendiary devices had been placed in the town centre and were due to explode in 30 minutes. Immediate and successful efforts were made by the Police to evacuate the commercial centre of the town, however there was inadequate time to prevent the devices from exploding. The Woolworths store was badly damaged after a device exploded on the sales-floor. A policeman suffered concussion after he was blown off his feet by the resultant blast from the device and a female civilian was cut by flying debris.
Other stores targeted in the attack included the town's Co-operative Department Store and FA Wellworth Department Store. The town's Woolworths' store was demolished after the attack. A new 8,000 square feet (740 m2) store was built on the same site, which reopened in the mid 1970s.
The rebuilt store suffered minor damage after a 200 lb car bomb exploded a short distance away, near the town's FA Wellworth's store on the evening of 21 October 1992. Nobody was injured in the explosion, which occurred after most stores in the town centre had closed for the day. However, significant damage was caused to the entrance area of the Woolworths' store, with windows being blown out, the porch roof being destroyed and a small quantity of stock toward the front of the store being damaged. Additionally, minor structural damage was caused to the store's stockroom with two internal portioning walls adjacent to the Generator Room and Fixtures' Store having to be rebuilt. The store recommenced trading on 23 October 1992.
Woolworths, for many years, was a leader in the UK music industry. In the 1950s and well into the 1960s, Woolworths issued recordings available only via their stores on their own label Embassy Records, produced and manufactured by Oriole Records. These releases were double-sided singles featuring two cover versions of current hit singles sold at a much cheaper price. This venture was very successful at the time, but was eventually killed off when other record companies started to issue compilation albums. However, Woolworths remained in the music business selling a wide range of singles and albums, and remained the UK's Number 1 music retailer well into the 1990s. Even successful nationwide music specialists stores such as Virgin Megastores and HMV did not overtake Woolworths during this time. They later suffered from strong competition in this field from the large supermarket chains Tesco and Asda.
In early days many Woolworths stores had cafes in them. However, as the years went on, and many larger stores were either closed or downscaled, fewer stores had cafes in them. When the stores finally ceased trading in 2008/9, only around 10% of the stores had cafes in them. These were usually located at the back of the stores or, when a store had a second sales floor, they were located either in the basement or upstairs on the first floor. They sold the usual range of hot and cold drinks, with hot food available, including breakfasts and lunch-time meals. Stores with cafes in them included Basingstoke, Bath, Blackpool, Bromley, Exeter, Coventry, Cambridge, Doncaster, Ipswich, Paignton, Gloucester, Huntingdon, Worcester, Windsor, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Leigh, Lancaster, Leicester, Wrexham, Leamington Spa, Maidstone, Salisbury, Southport, St Helens, Hounslow, High Wycombe and Yeovil. The Big W stores also had cafes. These were branded "Big Cafe".
Entertainment UK (EUK) was founded, originally as Record Merchandisers Limited in 1966 by EMI Records, to distribute music to non-specialist retailers, and subsequently became a joint venture between a number of record companies. Woolworths became Entertainment UK's largest customer and in 1986 Record Merchandisers Limited was acquired by Kingfisher plc. Record Merchandisers was renamed Entertainment UK in 1988.
EUK became the property of Woolworths Group plc after the de-merger from Kingfisher in 2001. In 2006, Woolworths Group acquired Total Home Entertainment Distribution Limited (THE) and combined it with EUK. In November 2007 the company acquired the book wholesaler and distributor Bertram Books.
EUK was the main supplier of Zavvi under an exclusive supply deal. As a result of EUK entering into administration, on 24 December the music retailer was also forced into administration as it was unable to source stock on favourable terms direct from suppliers. Zavvi later closed entirely.
Streets Online, founded in 1996 by Stephen Cole, was one of the pioneers of online retailing in the UK. Originally the name behind the online bookseller Alphabetstreet and music site Audiostreet, 85% of the company was bought out by the Kingfisher Group in 2000 for £15.7 million, and then became part of the Woolworths Group with its de-merger in 2001. It then became responsible for the web operations of MVC and Tesco. When Kingfisher bought this 85%, the remaining 15% was owned by Sky New Media Ventures (part of BSkyB). In 2003 the company headquarters was moved to the EUK site in Hayes.
2 Entertain was established as a joint venture between the Woolworths Group and BBC Worldwide. It combined the group's former video and music publishing and television and video production business, VCI, with BBC Worldwide's video publishing business. After negotiations with Woolworth Group's administrators, BBC Worldwide purchased Woolworths' 40% stake in 2 Entertain in March 2010 for £17 million, taking full ownership of the company.
The Winfield brand was launched by Woolworths in 1963 and continued until the 1980s. Goods sold under the brand included household cleaners, groceries, kitchenware, perfumes and other ranges e.g. fishing tackle.
Chad Valley was launched in 1991 to create an own label range of merchandise. The Chad Valley brand name, which has been in existence since 1860, is used on a range of toys and games suitable for children under 8 years old. Home Retail Group, the parent company of Argos and Homebase, purchased the brand for £5 million on 20 January 2009. Chad Valley first appeared exclusively in the Autumn/Winter 2009 Argos catalogue.
Ladybird is a brand of children's wear for children aged 0–10 years which was sold exclusively in Woolworths stores. Before the collapse of the Woolworths chain it was ranked third overall in the childrenswear market, with a market share of 5%. Woolworths purchased rights to the Ladybird brand in 1984, purchasing it outright from Coats Viyella in 2001. The brand has a history which dates back to a trading partnership beginning in 1934 between the original firm Adolf Pasold & Son and Woolworths. On 1 February 2009, Shop Direct Group purchased the brand and whole rights from the administrators.
- Coslett, Paul (2 December 2008). "The birth of a shopping tradition". BBC. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
- Lavan, Rosie (26 November 2008). "A history of Woolies: 99 years of pic 'n' mix". The Times. Retrieved 11 December 2008.
- "Opinion: Don't cry for Woolworths.. its time was up". The Mirror. 27 November 2008. Retrieved 11 December 2008.
- "Woolworths enters administration". BBC News. 26 November 2008. Retrieved 26 November 2008.
- "Woolworths Group plc - Home page". Web.archive.org. 27 February 2009. Retrieved 21 March 2014.
- "Woolworths stores to close". BBC News. 17 December 2008. Retrieved 17 December 2008.
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- Woolworth, Frank W. (personal communication 19 May 1909) -- " ... and it is expected that these three gentlemen will sail with me", for England
- Carson, Peck C. (personal communication 11 June 1909) -- "I have seen bunches of boys blindly follow a leader in all sorts of dangers: I have seen them follow a leader into all sorts of good things. There is no question but that you have had a good leader during your business career and I admire your blind faith in his leadership, but I want to say one or two things, and would like to find out, if possible, whether this rush to get away from present conditions is because of a spirit of adventure or dissatisfaction with your present conditions."
- Carson, Peck C. (personal communication 11 June 1909) -- "Now, strange as it may seem on looking over these return sheets, I should judge without having it scheduled up, that at least 150 out of 220 managers have blindly volunteered their services for they know not what."
- Carson, Peck C. (personal communication 11 June 1909) -- "
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