Is Woolies’ time up?

There’s nothing like nostalgia to bring home the strength of the recession, as old fixtures of life start to slide. Many on my generation will feel a pang at the news that Woolworth’s is fighting for it’s life. particularly at this time of year.

Woolie’s has been tottering for years under pressure from the supermarkets but its hundreds of High St stores arestill where you pick up the best bad taste cheapo Christmas presents and stocking fillers. You would think now, when family budgets are coming under real pressure that this is the time to save Woolie’s.

The US ambassador’s home in Regent’s Park Winfield House recalls past glories. It was once the home of Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton , the Paris Hilton of those days. “Winfield ” was the own brand name. The trouble with Woolies today is that you never know what stock beyond jumbo sweeties packs and DVDs it actually holds. And that’s its big problem.

What are the Woolworth niches today? A century ago it was the original penny bazaar store imitated by Marks and Spencer’s, amazing to think so now. In the Derry of the 50s, you got your pick’n’ mix sweets and loose biscuits and those peculiar wee cylinders of Lyons Maid ice cream.

Thinking about just those innocent those days could be, I remember as very small boy watching agog as Spider Kelly legendary featherweight boxing champion with his mates all of them wearing new sports jackets, and licking their Lyons Maid pokes ( sic), swaggering out of Woolies in Ferryquay St, the week after some big fight he’d just won.

In those days, Woolworth’s was cool. In Derry at least.

  • Tintan O’Foole

    December was the one month of the year it was profitable.

  • T ruth

    rose tinted glasses comes to mind,woolies ripped off those who couldn`t afford their products for decades,good riddance.

  • Rory

    Whatever Barbara Hutton may have been she was most certainly not “the Paris Hilton of her day”. Of the $50million (equivalent to $1billion today) she inherited from her mother in 1904, she was reputed to have less than $4,000 left at her death in 1972 most of it given away philanthropically (Winfield House to the US government for a token $1) or wasted by a succession of playboy husbands (apart from film actor, Cary Grant, who took nothing from her). She appears to have had a very unhappy life indeed, being dubbed the original Poor Little Rich Girl with good reason.

    Ogden Nash composed this little ditty on her many marital woes which also included a little dig at the marital woes of evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson ( fictionalised as Sharon Falconer in Sinclair Lewis’s novel, Elmer Gantry and played by Jean Simmons in the movie):

    Said Aimee McPherson to Barbara Hutton,
    “How do you get a marriage to button?”
    “You’ll have to ask some other person.”
    Said Barbara Hutton to Aimee McPherson

    I should add that I am not included among Hutton’s list of feckless playboy husbands.

    Still, I should be sad to see Woolies close. My primary school teacher once rewarded the first and second boys in the term exams with a trip to Belfast; tea of sausage and chips and shopping at Woolies and then on to a movie of our choice (Hell and High Water, a submarine cold war thriller with Richard Widmark). And besides I should have to go to Poundstretchers now to buy Herself the Christmas bottle of perfume (probably Rive Gross).

  • Ann

    My mother used to take us into woolies in Belfast for our lunch once in a blue moon. Fish and chips and jelly and icecream. Yep that was eating out for us. Those lyons maid pokes were never my favourate, square they were with ice cream that was wrapped up. It’s better when it comes from the machine all whirly with bits of hundreds and thousands on it.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Note that the Woolworth’s retail business that exists today is nothing to do with the Woolworth’s family or Barbara Hutton, it was spun off some time ago.

    It’s going to take a miracle to save it. It is a bit of a shame, though, that there’s nowhere else that does the 1kg and 2kg diary milk bars, though. And I do miss the pic ‘n’ mix.

  • joeCanuck

    loose biscuits

    And Broken biscuits too at half the price. Me Ma had to watch the pennies so we made do with those. Tasted just as good.
    And the 2 lb jars of mixed fruit jam. Yummy.

  • tim

    Maybe Alan Sugar isn’t such a good business man?

  • pith

    I bought a jumper there once instead of a coat when I was a poor student. It was between the saucepans and the paint sets. Woolly it wasn’t. It could attract a balloon at 100 yards and the shock when I touched anything metal could have kick started a dodo.

  • Eddie

    Brian Walker, educated man, pontifical, and literary with it, should know that when you talk about Woolworths fighting “for it’s life” there isn’t an apostrophe in the “it’s”

    “It’s” is short for “it is”.

    To illustrate:
    Woolworths is fighting for its life because it’s not making enough profit and its debt is too high. It’s a shame. [Geddit?]

  • US TaxPayer

    Maybe we can bail them out too.

  • Imitation is very common nowadays. And I think branded lines will be alarm by this