Working for F. W. Woolworth in the 1960s
In the 1960s a typical sales assistant was paid £6 for a forty hour week, about 15p per hour. Many joined at fifteen, which was the school leaving age. They, like Saturday staff were paid a juniors rate of 7p per hour.
Most people worked full-time, with their hours spread over four and a half days, including three Saturdays out of four. Stores normally had an early closing day when they shut at lunchtime, giving their people an afternoon off mid-week. The team also included Saturday Staff, who were normally still at school, and could be as young as thirteen. Many obtained permission to work an extra hour or two in the afternoons during the week after school, and during the holidays. With the exception of a few seaside stores, it was illegal to trade on a Sunday.
Most branches had more than twice as many employees in 1965, all working longer hours, than they did in 1995. And, in the days before equal opportunities legislation, the great majority of Managers and Executives were men. A woman Manager was very much the exception rather than the rule. By today's standards the chart below, which was originally published in the Annual Report in January 1958, is shocking for depicting all of the senior roles as being for men and all of the junior ones as being for women.
The personal service model was labour intensive. Until the late 1960s there was very little automation. The stores did everything by hand:
The picture above shows the branch in St Anne's Gate in Manchester City Centre, which was a typical larger store of the era. We have superimposed a picture of the full store workforce, which was also taken in 1969. The successful and popular superstore was compulsorily purchased by Manchester City Council in 1972 to make way for a redevelopment. Most of the staff transferred to one of the neighbouring branches at Piccadilly or in Salford.
Two booklets were produced, one for store staff and one for Store Management and Executive (Head) Office roles. They set out the opportunities, rules and benefits as well as describing the work.
A Deputy Manager could earn £25 a week (up to four times more than a sales assistant). This was about 60p an hour.
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We also have a 60s recruitment brochure for the Central Accounting Office in Castleton, Rochdale, Lancashire. Click its cover to open an Adobe PDF of the full booklet. It includes lots of pictures of the site and explains how each of the main departments, including accounts and finance, systems and the large distribution depot worked. Castleton was one of the last rail-centric distribution centres to open in Britain. The site's railhead received goods from suppliers and was used to despatch goods out to stores across the UK by freight train. During the 1970s it gradually switched to shipping by lorry.
The Castleton workforce celebrated forty years service to the business in 2007; at the time the facility looked set to continue for years to come. It had established itself as the administrative heart of the company and had become a centre of excellence in computing, distribution and human resource management. It also housed an award-winning call centre. Sadly events in 2008 put paid to any plans for a fiftieth birthday at the site.
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