Woolco Gallery Woolco Thornaby-on-Tees, a new town in the County Borough of Teesside
Thornaby Map Frank W. Woolworth personally opened stores in nearby Middlesbrough (1911) and Darlington (1913) making the area a key heartland for Woolies, and the ideal place for their 'ideal' Woolco
John G Dodds, General Manager and Store Director John had joined FWW in 1956, and had proved a highly effective manager at Church Rd, Yardley, Birmingham and Attercliffe Road, Sheffield, 9. Opening the Woolco would be a huge challenge!
The Senior Management Reflecting its size, four other seasoned store managers were part of the team, comprising three divisional managers and an Associate General Manager. Clockwise from top left: Messrs. Keith Sampson, D.K. Lister (AGM), A.S. Wallace and R.S. Fleming
The Management Team Standing: H. Brown, M. White, K. Sampson, M.B. Mawhinney, A.S. Wallace, M.I. Veveers, R.S. Fleming, D.G. Webb. Seated: A. Forrest, D. Lee-Hansen, J.G. Dodds, D.K. Lister, J. Birtle, R.W. Peart
'Plan your work, work your plan' The management team inspect the huge layout plan which had been carefully drawn for Britain's largest ever Woolco store. Many of the ranges had never been sold before. Their challenge was to bring it to life !
Eye in the Sky This aerial close-up shows the 68,000 square foot building with 30,000 square feet of stockroom, office and ancillary space and its 3 acre site (6,317 square metres store, 2,787 square metres behind the scenes, on a 1.21 hectare piece of land)
Thornaby New Town from above The new town included a multi-storey hotel, a library, health centre, indoor sports arena and lots of civic amenities
New life for RAF Thornaby The government-backed development area aimed to bring new housing and new industry to the North East, revitalising RAF Thornaby which had served the nation with distinction from 1930 to 1958.
Thornaby-on-Tees Aerial View (1968) When the Woolco store opened on 20 August 1968 much of the housing development was yet to complete, with work going on all over the new town.
Thornaby new town takes shape Thornaby-on-Tees benefitted from excellent road communications, allowing fast links from nearby Darlington, Stockton, Durham, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Saltburn. Lots of people made the day trip from Whitby, Northallerton and Thirsk too.
Woolco Thornaby-on-Tees Store Front A wide view of the store front, taken shortly before opening in 1968
Side entrance to Woolco Thornaby The single-floor superstore was designed to be as accessible as possible, with entrances in three sides. However disabled customers would have to enter through the front, as there were steps and no ramps at the side doors.
The Woolco Unloading Dock Make way for the Pic'n'Mix ! A Milady liveried sweet lorry delivers weigh-out sweets to Woolco Thornaby. Milady sweets were the best seller of the era, and were sold exclusively at Woolworth's ... and now at Woolco too.
Woolco - the Wheel Thing Long before specialists like KwikFit and NTS came to dominate the market, Woolco pioneered drive-in tyre bays in its stores. At peak trading the store could sell as many as 750 new tyres per week, generating over £50,000 of turnover at today's prices.
The Tyre Service Bay at Woolco, Thornaby The people of North East England enjoyed big discounts and fast, friendly service at Woolco's Tyre Bay. The innovative concession helped to keep Woolco shoppers safe on the road at highly competitive prices.
Woolco Underground Car Park A special feature for seasoned local Woolco Shoppers. The car park beneath the 68,000 square foot store avoided the chill wind and icy pools of the main surface parking areas, and offered direct access up to the store. It boasted 180 parking spaces.
Woolco's Main Car Park, Thornaby, 1968 The Woolco store had a huge 300 space surface car park, with no time restrictions. Here It was packed with 60s cars, with lots of registration numbers ending in 'D' (1966), 'E' (1967), and 'F' (brand new), nearly all British-made, from the factories of BMC/British Leyland (later /Rover), Ford and Vauxhall.
Woolco Overflow Car Park To complement the undergound car park beneath the store and the main surface car park, Executives arranged overflow space in the part of the former airfield that had not yet been developed. In the early days of the store, as shown here, at weekends even this space was packed with vehicles.
Woolco Thornaby Civic Centre Car Park A further view of the packed car park on opening day
Superstar Opening A limousine transported sixties superstar Mary Holland to Woolco. The actress, who played Katie in a very popular series of Oxo TV commercials which featured Richard Clarke as her ever so well fed husband, Phillip, was a real crowd-puller.
OXO's Katie and Phillip (Mary Holland and Richard Clarke) meet their fans Woolco Thornaby shoppers couldn't get enough of the small screen stars, whose domestic bliss and wonderful meals were an anchor of ITV's commercial breaks
Oxo's Katie and Phillip (aka Mary Holland and Richard Clarke) are welcomed to Woolco, Thornaby Woolco supremo Dick( R.G) Evans (left) and Buying Controller Sid (A.S.) Stafford welcome Mary Holland and Richard Clarke to the brand new Woolco store. Their Oxo TV commercial characters Katie and Phillip had superstar status in the Sixties and were a popular choice as celebrities.
Grand Opening of Woolco Thornaby, 20 August 1968 - speech by Jack Brown (Mayor of Teesside) Jack Brown, the Mayor of the County Borough of Teesside welcomed Woolco to Thornaby saying: "I should like to extend a warm welcome to Woolco and wish them every success ... Woolco has shown confidence in Teesside by selecting it ...This is indeed a compliment to the new County Borough." John Dodds, General Manager, thanked the Mayor and a huge crowd of well-wishers.
Grand Opening of Woolco Thornaby, 20 August 1968 - Oxo's Katie and Phillip Oxo's Katie and Phillip, played by Mary Holland and Richard Clarke, gave the Woolco "one-stop shopping centre" a celebrity endorsement as the equivalent of the shopping facilities in a major city, and directed shoppers to the huge display of stock cubes in-store.
Oxo's Katie and Phillip address the crowd at the opening of Woolco, Thornaby on 20 August 1968 Mary Holland and Richard Clarke were able to promise shoppers a remarkable six pack of LPs for 19/11 (99p), a choice of handbags for £1, a choice of blankets from £2.47 to £2.88, and of boy's Ladybird-branded trousers (a new brand to the chain) or baby anoraks for less than £2.50. Phillip observed that the grocery dept. had lots of lovely Oxo for tasty treats at dinner time !
It gives us great pleasure to declare this huge Woolco Department Store ... Katie and Phillip from the popular sixties OXO advertisements prepare to cut the ribbon at Woolco Thornaby, with Mr G.T. Cooke, Woolco's Advertising Manager (who had arranged the appearance) looking on
... open! A large posse of pressmen were on hand to record the opening of the huge Woolco superstore in Thornaby, which was a first for North East England and was reported as a new wonder of Woolworth
The ribbon falls as Woolco, Thornaby opens (20 August 1968) Katie and Phillip from the popular sixties OXO advertisements (Mary Holland and Richard Clarke) cut the ribbon with a flourish to launch the huge Woolco Department Store. Mr G.T. Cooke, the DIvision's Advertising Manager appears relieved and delighted with the stars' showmanship.
A bouquet for Katie (aka Mary Holland) John Dodds presented a beautiful bouquet of flowers to Mary Holland after she opened the store. That was something that OXO's Phillip had never done for Katie. Richard Clarke (Phillip) appears somewhat non-plussed at Katie's appreciation of the gesture. Perhaps he was due another casserole!
Trolley ma'am ? (20 August 1968) The throng of shoppers nearly overwhelmed the uniformed commissionaire at Woolco Thornaby as they bustled through the door on opening day. In those days people dressed up to go shopping.
OXO - "giving a meal man appeal" A huge throng of shoppers queue for autographs and copies of Katie's Cookbook from Katie and Phillip, stars of OXO's popular Sixties advertising campaign. You can see the Record, Housewares and Hardware Departments in the Background.
Feeding the 1500 Woolco's Buying Manager Sid Stafford attempts to direct the traffic as 1,500 shoppers pack the aisles at Woolco, Thornaby on its opening day. Many left with a cookbook. No loaves and fishes, but lashings of gravy in all of Katie's dishes!
Would you like gravy with that? Despite the hectic scenes OXO's Katie and Phillip (Mary Holland and Richard Clarke) took time to greet every shopper and to autograph copies of Katie's Cookbook. The true-pros even reminded everyone to buy some of the famous stock cubes ready for the recipés.
Personal Service with a Smile While most counters were self-service, some key departments operated the traditional personal service model. Woolco sold a more comprehensive range of Jewellery through a concession operation. Its staff reported to the General Manager and wore the store's stylish uniforms.
Ring the changes A close-up view of one Woolco Thornaby's long line of twenty-six checkouts, each fitted with state-of-the-art NCR electro-mechanical cash registers, which recorded range-level sales and assisted with stock control
Check this out! A panorama of the huge 68,000 square foot salesfloor at Woolco, Thornaby viewed the checkouts at the front of the store. NCR electo-mechanical cash registers jangle, with the Jewellery, Fashion and Textile Departments all in view through the throng of shoppers.
Woolco Furniture Displays Sofas, tables and chairs, display shelving and cupboards were all part of the new furniture department at Woolco, which initially operated as a Concession
The boot, the leg-end The extended displays of shoes and footwear for men, women and children at Woolco
A handbag !? Just £1 Beyond the displays of shoes in the foreground the store featured an extensive range of handbags, supplied by Northern Leathergoods. These were advertised as an opening promotion at the amazingly low price of just £1 each.
Drapery, soft furnishings and carpets Carpets proved a popular favourite at Woolco. Despite the staff wearing the superstore's bright, modern uniforms and reporting to its General Manager, the department was operated as a Concession.
Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Elegant displays of fresh fruit and vegetables, with a state-of-the-art modern weighing scale in the foreground. Most of the range was locally sourced, with Yorkshire produce much in evidence.
Butchery Woolco hired seasoned butchers to offer a full range of meat, with the joints prepared in-store and, where necessary, cut to order. The modern, hygienic displays complemented a wide range of groceries and fresh provisions which were also sold in-store.
Glass Fibre Curtains The curtain departments were also a Concession, and built on the early success of Glass Fibre Curtains at Gallowtree Gate, Leicester (Woolworth Store 49) and fabric by the yard at Harlow (Woolworth Store 990)
Increased sales per foot Woolco offered a full range of shoes and footwear, drawing expertise from established players by operating the department as a concession
Fully-carpeted Fashion Department Unlike Woolco USA, which drew its merchandise from the wholly owned subsidiaries including Kinney Corporation that Woolworth had acquired in advance of the openings, the British operation relied on concessionaires, despite having a house-style all of its own. The styling of the mannequins had a certain space age quality.
Cycles and Toys Push bikes from Hawk Cycles and a huge selection of toys (including larger items that could not be accommodated in most High Street stores), made Woolco a destination of choice for families. The chain went on to build a broader leisure range, including golf equipment and fishing tackle in the 1970s.
Kathleen Winstanley, Miss United Kingdom's celebrity appearance at Woolco, Thornaby (1968) Woolco's Commissionaire shakes hands with Kathleen Winstanley on her arrival at the Teeside store, as Buying Manager Sid (A.S.) Stafford (left) and General Manager John G. Dodds look on
Kathleen Winstanley, Miss United Kingdom, carrying a bouquet on a tour of Woolco, Thornaby Staff Manageress Mrs D. Lee-Hanson, General Manager John G. Dodds and Woolco Buying Manager Sid (A.S.) Stafford accompany Kathleen Winstanley, 1968's Miss United Kingdom, on a whistlestop tour of the huge Woolco Department Store
Pickle me onions - it's Miss UK at Woolco The indignities of being a beauty queen in the 1960s are plain to see as Miss Kathleen Winstanley (who had been described by Pathé News as "The lucky lass was Miss Wigan ... with the following vital statistics - 38, 23, 36 - just perfect!"). Her celebrity appearance was sponsored by Haywards, the makers of Pickled Onions and Piccalilly!
Peeling back the onion Kathleen Winstanley, boosts sales of Hayward Peck's Jumbo-sized jars of Pickled Onions, alongside Woolco Staff Manageress Mrs D. Lee-Hansen and General Manager John G. Dodds. Eric Morley had promised a glamourous year for the winner, as well as a 1,000 guinea (£1,050) prize.
Woolco's Red Grill The 160-seat customer restaurant at Woolco offered meals and snacks throughout the day. Its modern styling proved a big hit with customers. As Woolco grew, its Red Grill was one of the best performing in the chain.
A passion for fashion Woolco had a passion for fashion, with a bright modern clothing section offering the latest designs for all the family. Operated as a concession, the Teen Scene and juniors ranges marked the first time that F.W. Woolworth had carried Ladybird-branded goods, despite buying from the Company since 1932.
Supermarket Sweep A crisp colour picture of customers buying from the Fresh Meat and Poultry counter at Woolco Thornaby in 1968. The wall display stands beside the tall, curved supermarket shelving, which still looks quite modern almost fifty years after the shot was taken.
The first Noël at Woolco, Thornaby Establishing itself at the heart of the new town community, Woolco's General Manager made his store especially welcoming at Christmas. After dark the look was magical, ensuring bumper sales in the "golden quarter"
A dream is a wish your heart makes If this glass slipper feets, we promise no pickled onions, ever again! Woolco General Manager with his very own beauty queen, (1968's Miss United Kingdom, Kathleen Winstanley) who was later seen leaving in a pickled pumpkin and a fine pair of Woolco sandals.
Thanks for visiting Woolco, Thornaby Despite its ample car parks, many regular shoppers lived locally and chose to take the free Woolco bus service. As the town grew, sales rocketed. Today the car park is much smaller, and the layout is much less revolutionary, but the store continues to prosper as part of Asda Walmart, serving the people of Teesside.