The Woolworths Museum

Marking 50 years in the British Isles

"Buy Britain's best value goods - at Britain's best value stores.  The advertising slogan that promoted Woolworth's fiftieth birthday (Golden Jubilee) in Britain in 1959.


Woolworth enjoyed a reemarkable period of growth and prosperity during the 1950s, adding 300 stores and doubling the size of many of the original premises. It seemed that whatever the Board turned their minds to blossomed into success, resulting in a big rise in the share price and generous dividends to the investors. To crown the decade plans were laid for big celebrations to mark the Company's Golden Jubilee in 1959. A series of activities and events was scheduled throughout the year, some for customers, some for managers and some for store staff. The key focus was on sales generation, with wall-to-wall press advertising and the chain's first television commercials on ITV. The promotion captured many people's imagination, both inside and outside the company.


Preston's town crier was enlisted to promote the Woolworths Fiftieth Anniversary Sale in Fishergate

The promotion included deep price cuts, with many popular lines dropped to half price or one-third off for several consecutive weeks. One example was a special on light bulbs and heating products. With so much value to shout about the chain brought out the big guns.

Pictured is the town crier of Preston, Lancashire in his full regalia, promoting the Golden Jubilee sale on the doorstep of the town's Fishergate Woolies. It had been the second to open in the UK in 1910, occupying a prominent position opposite the Town Hall, and had moved to purpose-built premises along the street in 1923, and had served the local community with distinction.

The Woolworths superstore in Fishergate, Preston, Lancashire - pictured in 1959


Britain's Best Value - the Woolworth slogan for their 50th birthday Golden Jubilee saleThe slogan "Britain's Best Value" took the chain back to its founder's original vision, selling a lot for a little.

Key line prices were cut, some to margins of just 10%. For the approach to work it had to attract extra customers and to get them to trade up to better items.


A walking advertisement for the Woolworth Golden Jubilee sale in 1959 by Miss June Smith, daughter of National Cash Register's representative to the company


A big sales competition was launched between the stores to see which could achieve the most growth from the new promotional strategy. Prizes were offered for the best sales by area, region and for the country as a whole. There were also awards for getting press coverage for the event. Some of the prizes were for every staff member in the winning store, not just the manager. This helped to engage all of the chain's 75,000 people in the promotion. Everyone embraced the idea with great enthusiasm, and spawned many newsworthy events.

For example, pictured on the right is a full life-size walking advertisement for the sale. Miss June Smith, age 10, was the daughter of the Company's representatiive from National Cash Register ("NCR"). She made several guest appearances in her innovative outfit.

The advertisement that June wore announced that over 85% of the items sold at Woolworth cost less than five shillings (25p), and everything was guaranteed to be good value for money. The same theme featured on a national advertising campaign on 'the ITA' (Britain's network of commercial television stations, which were regulated by the Independent Television Authority).


This boy, a customer of the Ulverston, Cumbria store, clad from head to toe in Woolworth merchandise and carrying a banner promoting "Britain's best value at Woolworths" walked away with first prize in the Gosforth Fancy Dress ParadeThis girl, a customer from the Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire store, chose a costume composed entirely of advertisements for the Woolworth Golden Jubilee, along with a banner for "Britain's best value" as her costume for the local fancy dress parade. She won first prize!


Proving that it pays to advertise, two young customers clearly got the bug. In Ulverston, Cumbria the boy on the left won first prize in the Gosforth Fancy Dress Parade for 1959 clad entirely in Woolworths merchandise, while more than a hundred miles to the south the girl from the Ross-on-Wye (pictured right) chose an outfit of head-to-toe Jubilee advertisements and also walked away with first prize in her town. Both are carrying placards with the jubilee shopping basket logo and the "For Britain's Best Value" slogan.


The Golden Jubilee sale in action at the Bolton, Lancashire store.  In an integrated campaign, signs in-store linked to the advertising on television and to the press advertisements published by Woolworth


Woolworth in Bolton, Lancashire - pictured at the time of the Golden Jubilee sale in 1959Click to open a larger view of this full page newspaper advertisement for electrical products from Ward and Goldstone in the Woolworths Golden Jubilee Sale in 1959. This was the first major, sustained press campaign by Woolworths

Bolton store (above and left) embraced the sale, setting up bold and impactful displays. For the first time Woolworth had launched an integrated marketing campaign that did not just rely on word-of-mouth and window displays. It included:

  • TV adverts broadcast live on ITV
  • Full page press advertisements for single ranges
  • Leaflets and copies of the ad for store distribution
  • Banners and signage on the salesfloor



Woolworth staff celebrate the company's 50th birthday in 1959. Each store threw its own party for the team, with extra to spend if they had achieved their targets in the sales competition.


Alongside the serious business of selling, the Golden Jubilee provided a great excuse for a knees-up! With the Company right at the top of the stock market and many store managers picking up bonuses that exceeded their salaries, most stores arranged something spectacular in a local hotel and a staff outing to the seaside as well. Where a store had exceeded its sales target the Company made an extra contribution towards the festivities, picking up the full tab for the winning store in each Area and Region . Pictured above are the team from Long Eaton, Nottingham (Store 472 - left) and Tamworth, Staffordshire (Store 508 - right).

Investors and pundits awaited the Annual Report with interest. They wanted to know whether Woolworth's new wall-to-wall advertising and strategy of reducing prices that were already discounted had paid off.

The F.W. Woolworth Annual Report from 1959, which reported a remarkable 20% increase in sales as a result of the Golden Jubilee and a 2p bonus dividend on every 25p share as a treat for investors. The cost of the extra dividend was £1.4m

When Chairman R. John Berridge took to the platform at the AGM, he was able to announce a spectacular 20% increase in sales, a £2m (18%) increase in net profit and a £4m (33%) increase in adjusted profit. In addition to the 2s 3d (11p) dividend on each 5/- share (25p) the company announced plans to pay an additional 4d (2p) 'thank you dividend' to mark its fiftieth birthday. As a result each 25p Woolworth share returned more than half of its face value in dividend in 1959 alone.

The results were not achieved by cost-cutting. Berridge also announced that the company had rewired 200 shops for flourescent light and had spent £35m on 250 new stores over the previous five years, all from company reserves without borrowing or cutting the dividend. This had added to the asset base.

Lower prices, higher volumes and an everyday store for everyone. That's was the winning formula otherwise known as the Wonder of Woolworth.

That's the wonder of Woolworths.