Woolies, Oh Woolies!

A part of my childhood is biting the dust: the six-penny store Woolworths is going bottoms up, it seems. With debts of over 300 million quid and no prospective buyer in sight (except for some of the outlets in prime areas), Woolies is on the brink of extinction.


Customers mourned the giant’s demise by plundering the shelves in a pre-Christmas sale crazy shopping binge. It is the people with the sharpest elbows who win the best prizes. Either that – or perhaps consumer-happy shoppers bashed their way to the tills with walking sticks and Zimmer frames.

I feel a certain sadness: even though I wasn’t really brought up in England until I was gone 10 – I still remember Woolworths with fondness. It is an institution – like royalty, tea drinking, discussing the weather and queuing in orderly lines (except for when the sales are on). I always thought it was a British institution to boot – until I discovered that it is an American export that the Brits have taken into their ample bosom and loved for 99 years.

pick_mixI remember walking the two miles to Woolworths with my sisters and brother in order to buy a small bag of Pick ‘N Mix sweets. After terms of having a tuck box locked away by teachers, it was a paradise found to be able to rummage freely among the Sweethearts, the sherbet lemons, the spongy dentures, the fluffy chocolate-covered teddy bears; oh – those rhubarb and custard fragments of delicous-ness, those pear drops with their slightly strange aftertaste. And best of all, they always had my favourite brand of pink and white fluffy marshmallows in stock.

Woolworths was my destination when I wanted to buy a box of Black Magic for my dad’s Christmas present, or maybe Milk Tray for my mum (the chocs were so delicious that in the 70s, they made grown men dive into shark-infested waters to deliver them to their beloved)!

Judging by people’s comments on the Internet, many of them experimented with shoplifting as kids in Woolworths’ aisles. And if you really push me, I might go as far as to confess that the odd sweetie or ten might have slunk its way down into my tummy before I paid for my little bag of sweets… But sshh! That’s our little secret!

In recent years, when back in the UK, I’ve always popped into Woolies to buy Thomas the Tank engine pajamas for Anklebiter #2 and Dora the Explorer jeans for Anklebiter #1. Or to browse through their buckets of CDs and DVDs.

Where else can you find fishing gear, batteries and a cheap kettle next to each other but in Woolies? And there’s the suntan lotion – next to the cookie jars! Woolies is an Aladdin’s cave: you can buy everything and nothing there.

That is its charm – and now, it seems, its downfall.

17 thoughts on “Woolies, Oh Woolies!

  1. I can’t believe Woolworths is now a thing of the past! They’ve been around for ages and ages!! Stupid economy. 😦

    Oh and a box of Black Magic chocolates is *always* a good plan! 🙂


  2. I dont think our kids and other generations will ever get to experience a real FIVE AND DIME Store… (that is what we call them in America)… things are just not the same now! That is when sodas were sodas were served from REAL SODA FOUNTAINS


  3. I remember going to Woolworth’s in Pittsburgh. We called it the “five and ten” and it was a real treat to be able to go. This is a huge disappointment. There’s one still in downtown Pittsburgh that I’d visit when I’d go back. 😦 Goodbye Old Friend.


  4. ^The one is PA is the only Woolworth’s I’d been to. We went there to get ‘stuff’ for my wedding and reception in Greensburg, PA. (And to eat at the Tin Angel…Wow!) Aw…memories! So sad that so many companies are going under. And quite frightening also.


  5. Woolies in England always puzzled me because I had no clue what exactly you could buy there. So I never went there. I guess because I was foreign I looked for specialist shops instead. Oh well. Pity.


  6. Oh, I remember when Woolworths went out of our area. I was about 10 years old or so and wasn’t too concerned. But, now I could really go for a store like that. I feel your pain.


  7. We never called them Woolies, which I wish that we had, it is a charming moniker. The last Woolworth that I remember closed here decades ago. It was taken over by a Kmart [another American export].

    But I do remember during a freezing cold day, visiting my cousin in Alberta, the highlight being a visit to “woolies”. They loved that store, she for the ease of shoplifting a lipstick or two, and my Aunt because they carried LP’s of Elvis her favorite.



  8. I used to save all my money for books, they were the cheapest at Woolworths. The soda fountain was awesome. The aisles were so narrow and the stuff piled high, it was truely a one stop shop. A favorite of mine when I was much younger. All the Woolworths are gone from this area and have been for a number of years. I have heard them called, Five and Dimes, Five and ten cent stores, my favorite is “The Dime Store.”
    All the different candies you described sound awesome. Most I have never heard of..very interesting! 🙂


  9. Woolworths in Australia is a supermarket similar to Tesco, Asda etc in the UK. the store where you buy the clothes,DVDs etc that is owned by Woolworths is Big W. And they have petrol stations linked to Woolworths where you get 5c a litre off the price if you shop in Big W or Woolworths.


  10. It would have been 100 years old next year.

    To survive two world wars and numerous stock market crashes in that time, but to go under now just shows you how bad things are at the moment.


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