Wages were £10 a week
I worked at the Woolworth’s London Rd store in 1973/74 as a stockroom boy, when I first left school. My wage was £10 per week rising to £14 per week when I left in 1974. Woolworth’s store was a big concern with a lot of staff. There was the manager and his assistant, together with about five floorwalkers who were suited men who managed their own departments. There were probably about twenty five assistants on each shop floor. This was increased on a Saturday when about twenty schoolgirls were employed to help out. The store was organised very differently then, as there was at least one assistant on each counter, and none of the check-outs we see these days.
Selling all manner of items
The basement used to sell haberdashery; paint, which we used to dread in the stockroom as it was so heavy; gardening items including plants that we used to have to water twice daily on the roof; household items like ornaments etc; DIY and toys. The ground floor was for food; soap powder; confectionery; records (yes we used to sell the top ten in those days); a butchery counter and a deli counter as well, added to this was the long tea bar at the back of the store.
An excellent staff canteen
Upstairs on the first floor we had a canteen for the staff that used to provide excellent meals and snacks when we had our tea breaks. This may seem a bit strange as it was only forty years ago, but the women had their own canteen and us men had a smaller room on the other side of the cooking area. The women also had a hairdresser who came to the store once a week. The stockrooms were vast, especially the top floor; we used to have countless deliveries as the turnover of stock was so fast. We had a couple of Saturday boys to help out, and two retired chaps, one on each floor, to operate the ‘baling machines’, these were to flatten all the cardboard into neat bundles.
It was hard work
There were four of us in the stockroom, two managers and us two boys. I may have forgotten some of the details, but what I do remember is that it was hard work and we hardly ever stopped. It is difficult to realise now, when you see how London Road has changed, but in the 1960/70s, it was a bustling shopping street with loads of good stores. I believe the downfall began when Marks and Spencer moved out. How many people remember Ina’s (later Diplomat); Boots Audio; Carnaby Styles in York Place; The Elephant & Castle pub and A.A. Bakers where we used to buy our Subbuteo teams.
Do you have any memories of London Road Woolworth’s store? If you do, please leave a comment below.