The Woolworths Museum


F.W. Woolworth Zimbabwe Photo Album

A team photograph taken on the roof of the Harare store to mark the opening of the first Woolworths in Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia) in 1958.  The store boasted 300 staff, nearly all full-time.

 

A team photograph taken on the roof of the new store in Harare (Salisbury) to commemorate the opening in 1958. The store boasted almost 300 staff, the majority of them full time. Thirty of the new recruits had previously worked for Woolworth in the UK before emigrating to Rhodesia with their partners.

 

The Shoe Counter in the Salisbury, Rhodesia Woolworths in 1958.  (Today Harare in Zimbabwe)

 

The most striking feature of the Harare, Zimbabwe store was that it was so quintessentially British. The product selection closely matched the offer at the branch in Guildford, Surrey, UK, and did not appear to take account of the different climate or customer profile. It seems that the goal was to open a store that would appeal to the ex-patriate market and those Rhodesians who would value a selection of goods from the 'mother country'. In retrospect this seems like the height of arrogance to export British culture and traditions to far away lands.

 

The second Zimbabwean Woolworth store opened in Bulawayo in 1963.  The store frontage was influenced by the latest designs from America, with the single word Woolworth in a projecting vertical sign upwards from fascia to the roof line.

 

The second Zimbabwean store opened in Bulawayo in 1963. The architecture was influenced by the American parent company, which had experience in opening stores in the warm climate of Florida, Mexico and Cuba, and suggested a number of innovations at the purpose-built store. The vertical Woolworth signs from above the fascia to roof-level featured on many American stores opened or relocated in the 1950s and 1960s but were rarely used in the UK.

 

The shop front of the Bulawayo, Zimbabwe store, opened by Woolworths in 1943, would not have looked out of place in Haslemere or Blandford Forum in the UK.  The signage, window treatment and entrance doors were quintessentially British

 

At street-side the Bulawayo store looked similar to upmarket British branches of Woolworth's. The frontage would have been quite at home in Haslemere (Surrey) or Blandford Forum (Dorset).

The main entrance doors to the Bulawayo Woolworths Store in Zimbabwe, pictured in 1964

 

 

 

The windows were principally used to show toys and leisure goods rather than household and utility products, showing how far the stores had moved away from Frank Woolworth's vision of an everyday store for everyone.

 

The salesfloor of the Bulawayo store pictured in 1964, shortly before UDI effectively severed the connection between the British Woolworths and its infant Zimbabwean subsidiary.

 

The picture above was the last ever to be sent back to London. It shows the displays at Bulawayo in the Summer of 1964. UDI and sanctions the following year unceremoniously broke the line of communication back to the British parent company. As with other images of the Commonwealth stores, the most striking feature is how British the store looks. The displays include not only cricket bats but paddling pools, airbeds, dartboards, tennis racquets and jigsaw puzzles.To the back of the scene on the right there is even a delicatessen counter. Overall this is a far cry from Frank Woolworth's original aspiration in the 1890s to adapt the formula to suit everybody's needs locally, as the everyday store for everyone.