Launch of The New Bond - the F. W. Woolworth & Co. Ltd. Staff Magazine
Frank Woolworth was a great communicator. He wrote to his stores every day, with an ecletic mix of instructions, sales tips and news from his travels. When on buying trips to Europe he took pleasure in describing the new products that he had planned for his stores, but left room to describe the local scenery, costumes and even the food in the hotel restaurant. The tradition was maintained by the next generation of Company Executives, both in Britain and North America. President Hubert Parson, for example, wrote at length of his visit to the new Oxford Street, London, W1 store for its opening in 1924.
From 1909 to the mid 1930s in Britain, headquarters and each local District Office sent mail each day, turning out reams of typescript on every subject imaginable. Little of it reached the colleagues on the floor, and virtually all of the communication was one-way.
Then in June 1933 the Metropolitan District Office had a brainwave. It created a magazine which sought input from the staff as well as conveying news from the office. District Office staff typed the journal in their lunch breaks. They gambled correctly that store staff would fund the cost of production at threepence (1¼p).
The initial run was limited to a hundred copies, which was the maximum number that could be printed from a single master on the office's Gestetner machine. These sold out quickly. A local printer was hired to produce the second edition and the print-run was increased to five hundred. Those also sold out.
The authors invited input from store staff, giving examples of the kinds of things they were looking for. They were inundated with replies. The contributions included histories of some of the firm's products, recipes, knitting patterns, poems and anecdotes. Many also took the opportunity to share their thoughts about company policy. Few took the option to contribute anonymously or under a pseudonym, happy for their names to be published. Thetop brass took criticism on the chin and were happy to join the debate. This followed a tradition started by Frank Woolworth and showcases the "classless" culture that he encouraged.
Within a year 2,000 copies were sold, reaching an estimated 5,000 people. The cover price was sufficient to finance typesetting by the Company Printer, Duttons of Liverpool, enabling photos and cartoons to be added.
The first pictures showed "the boss", District Manager F.D. Sprague at home. His resumé noted that he had started as a learner at S. H. Knox & Co. in 1905. He had taken control of his first store after just thirty months and had risen steadily to become a Superintendent in Kansas City before moving to the UK in 1925.
His first decision had been to rename the Southern District to Metropolitan, or Metro for short.
Both District Managers had seats on the Board. Sprague was able to share news of the popularity of his venture into publishing. The Chairman, William Stephenson, was taken with the idea. All were agreed that it would be good to have a way of communicating directly with the shopfloor staff across the 620 stores. The Board adopted the idea, and set the wheels in motion for the first new Company magazine to be published in good time for Christmas 1935.
The new house journal adopted the name The New Bond, after the headquarters in New Bond Street in fashionable Mayfair, London W1. It used the format of Metro News and Views. Duttons of Liverpool agreed to include colour covers within the price. The inaugural edition was given away as a Christmas present to every employee.
Vol 1, Ed 1 included a company history titled "The Long Long Chain: the story of wonderful achievement", a ghost story, and a piece about an Assistant from Beverley, Yorkshire who had been named the "company's champion lass". It featured a special centre-spread picture, drawn by the legendary cartoonist H.M. Bateman. It portrayed a windswept staff and shop recovering from the visit of "the customer who spent £10 in a Woolworth store". The value would have been enough to buy the four hundred most expensive items in-store!
Store colleagues took to the new magazine. Most nominated a 'New Bond Correspondent' to channel news and photos of local events and stories. Many "NBCs" took their duties very seriously.
Copies of the bi-monthly magazine, which ran for thirty-five years, give a unique insight into the cultural life of Woolworth's and a snapshot of wider British and Irish social history. The content reflects the interests of store staff and contains remarkably little company propaganda. Its pages offer a window on Air Raid Precautions, Gas Masks and a World War. It also shows the great changes in homes and families during the Fifites and Sixties.
Special measures were taken at the beginning of World War II to keep the magazine going. The Woolworth Chairman, William Stephenson, was in a unique position to obtain permission. The Government had sought his expertise to head Aircraft Production for the Air Ministry. His boss was the press baron, Lord Beaverbrook. A special dispensation and supplies of paper were given, on the condition that the magazine targeted employees serving in H.M. Forces. The pages provide a remarkable documentary record of the conscripts and their service, including a photo of every recruit in uniform.
They also give a largely uncensored snapshot of life on the Home Front, including product shortages, the staff's voluntary work as ARP Wardens, Special Constables, Auxiliary Nurses and in the Women's Voluntary Service. From 1941 they include details of the fallen and those reported missing, and by 1942 there are evocative letters and hand-drawn cards from prisoners-of-war who had received copies of The New Bond in their red cross parcels.
The magazines also report the fund-raising initiatives at home that saw colleagues and Directors buy Spitfires for the RAF, fund a number of Homes for Orphans and take part in local initiatives like 'Blackburn's £1m tribute'. The final wartime issues, which were published in solidarity by the American parent company, also report the road to victory, demobilisation and the gradual return to normality as survivors returned home and got back to work.
After the War the journal converted to a compact layout, with a sprinkling of colour. The increased production cost was funded by a small amount of supplier product advertising. New features included movie reviews and features on pop music as welll as pen pictures of some of the diverse towns and cities served by the stores.
During the 1960s the parent company in the USA was keen to modernise and swept aside many long-standing traditions in North America. A new generation of Directors took a more active interest in the British subsidiary. Against the tide they recognised the value of The New Bond and introduced their own version in the USA and Canada. Early issues of their 'Woolworth World' had a number of similar features, but were more corporate and in broadsheet newspaper format. Copies were not distributed in Britain.
By the early 1970s pressure mounted for the British firm to follow suit. The decision to switch to a newspaper proved highly contentious, even after it was agreed that it would be given away free of charge. Long servers did not want to lose the New Bond name, even though the headquarters had moved to new premises in Marylebone Road, NW1 in 1959. All feared the onset of propaganda. The final edition of the New Bond, Volume 31, No. 3, which was published in July 1972, explained:
The replacement journal, "Woolworth News" (tweaked to "Woolworths News" and then "Woolies News") survived for a further 33 years in paper media, before moving to an intranet-based digital news feature called "The Quickie" which was published fortnightly until the business went into Administration in November 2008.
The Woolworths Museum is deeply indebted to
We used the papers that Reg collected during his career extensively to prepare this website.
Mr. Gallanders kept every copy of the New Bond.
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