The Woolworths Museum

A window on Christmas past

The F.W. Woolworth store in Bexhill-on-Sea, Sussex, pictured in 1934 and 2007


The original British Woolworth store in Church Street Liverpool, pictured at Christmas 1909 (with thanks to Mr Scott Oakford)

Frank Woolworth used to tell his team that the store windows were their advertisements. He always placed his stores at the heart of the High Street, where the town was busiest, and then relied on good displays to lure customers inside.

On this page we've collected together photos of how the window displays changed over a century of bricks and mortar trading in the United Kingdom.

Left: the flagship British store in Church Street, Liverpool at Christmas, 1909


The American flagship store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 1905, the year when the company was incorporated


The Christmas windows of Woolworths in Gillingham, Kent, UK in 1923


The Christmas windows of the F. W. Woolworth store in Coleraine, County Londonderry, Northern Ireland in 1931


Woolworth's Christmas windows pictured at the retailer's branch in Woodcote Road, Wallington, Surrey, UK in 1934


Boarded for the blitz, the windows of Woolworth's in Hammersmith, London in 1940


The newly-opened F.W. Woolworth store in Selsdon to the south of London, England featured this elaborate display of toys for the Christmas season in 1956


Woolworth relocated to a new purpose-built store in the main mall at Basingstoke, Hampshire, UK in 1970. Its Christmas window displays were much simpler as one of the first to deploy a see-through rather than enclosed style, pictured in 1970


The rather spartan Christmas window displays illustrate Woolworth's new thinking in the 1980s. The store on the LCC Debden Estate in Loughton, Essex is pictured shortly before Christmas 1984.


By 1998 the windows at Selsdon, Surrey had become much less elaborate. The popular Woolies Winter Wonderland theme was mainly portrayed by banners which the retailer's staff called 'cardboard engineering'


Despite generally simplifying its windows, Woolworths made an exception for the flagship branches. For example this is a new superstore in the popular Metro Centre, Gateshead in North East England. Woolies Winter Wonderland included elaborate animatronic santa and elf figures, which proved a big hit with shoppers and contributed to a bumper millennium Christmas season.


Back where it all began - the Christmas windows of Woolworths in Liverpool City Centre in 2001


A spectacular new look for the Woolworths store at Kingston-upon-Thames in South West London in 2003


A new look small store at Kingswood, Bristol on Woolworths' 96th birthday in the UK, 5 November 2005


The start of the Christmas season of 2008 at a brand new Woolworths in Bitterne, Southampton, Hampshire, UK


Just days after the opening in Bitterne, Woolworths faced the ignominy of Administration. The picture shows the flagship store in Kingston-upon-Thames facing the end with dignity in December 2008


...and then there were none

Today you will have to travel to Germany, Mexico, the Caribbean or Zimbabwe to visit a Woolworth shop.
That's a long way to go for some pic'n'mix candy and a light bulb.