Hurrah! Britain's favourite department store is celebrating its centenary today.
Frank Winfield Woolworth opened his first UK shop in Liverpool on 5th November 1909. He'd arrived in the city by liner six months earlier, fresh from establishing a successful chain of five and dime stores in the US. The idea needed translating a bit for the English market (thruppence and sixpence were the initial prices charged over here) but Frank's underlying raison d'être remained the same. Buy quality in bulk, pile it high, and they will come. And so they did, to 25Church Street that Friday morning, to see what lay behind the curved glass frontage. "The handsome premises were thronged the whole time they were open," reported the local paper on the day of opening, even though not a single item was sold. American tradition dictated that day 1 was for viewing only, although visitors were also treated to complimentary tea in the refreshment room and a variety of circus acts. A bit gaudy, thought some, but Liverpool loved FWW and stripped the shelves bare. Within five years another 40 stores had opened across the country, and a retail empire was born.
And so today there'll be centenary celebrations in Woolworths stores across the nation. Bunting will flap, brass bands will play, and there'll be special merchandise at Edwardian prices... except, damn, no there won't. Woolworths spontaneously combusted earlier this year and now exists only as an insignificant online brandname. What a pity that Frank's company didn't live long enough to still be trading today, and maybe even receive a special telegram from the Queen.
So, in the absence of any official 100 year shindig, I thought I'd ask "What happened to London's Woolworths?" There used to be just over a hundred Woolies in the capital. Most have since been filled by some other retail enterprise, although a fair proportion are still locked, shuttered and empty. I've compiled the following list using informationavailableonline, but there may be several omissions and errors, and there are definitely gaps. Can you help me to improve, update and complete it? 6pm update: I've updated the list in line with your (many) comments so far, thanks!.
Iceland: Bethnal Green, Bow, Greenford, Hackney, Harold Hill, Highgate, Kilburn, Leyton, Mill Hill, Palmers Green, Pinner (Rayners Lane), Plumstead, Poplar, Stoke Newington, Upminster, Wallington. 99p store: Balham, Camberwell, Chingford Mount, Edgware, Eltham, Enfield Town, Hornchurch, Muswell Hill, Penge, Shirley, Sidcup, Southall, Stratford, Streatham. Poundland: East Ham, North Finchley, Tooting, Uxbridge, West Ealing. Wilkinsons: Ilford, Walthamstow.