Woolworth

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The German Occupation

From the Woolworth Museum website

In the early days of the Occupation, the German troops were under strict orders to behave with decorum. As a result initially they treated the islanders with respect and tried to demonstrate that the islanders and their new masters could get along.

One of the first places where this policy showed was in the Woolworth store in King Street, St. Helier, Jersey. Some of the soldiers thought of Woolworth as a German company, having shopped in one of the stores in the Third Reich. Hearing that the King Street branch had sweets and chocolates on sale (which they had not been able to get during their march through France), they went in to shop. Store staff and customers were surprised that the German soldiers said "Good morning", joined on the back of the queue, waited their turn and paid for their purchases with shillings and pennies.

The invasion brought Jersey shoppers out in force, stocking up with everything. Without fresh supplies from the mainland (and with very limited indigenous sources for most items), stocks were soon depleted.

On 11 August the store manager placed an advertisement in the Evening Post announcing that the store would be closing all day on Thursdays. This was a first for the store which had not traditionally had even an early-closing day. The advert stimulated yet more queues and helped the manager to clear the stockroom of all manner of surplus items.

From the beginning of the occupation until liberation five years later the Channel Island stores could not communicate with the mainland, and received no shipment of goods from the UK. Company records show the stores as "closed - under enemy occupation" from 1 July 1940 until July 1945 in Guernsey and August 1945 in Jersey. Snippets of information in our archive suggest that the stores may have traded independently during some of this time.

Liberation

When liberation finally came in 1945 Woolworth's set about reinstating and modernising the Channel Island stores. Work on the Jersey branch was complete in time for Christmas. Among the features that are evident are products priced at up to thirty shillings - a far cry from the sixpenny maximum of 1939. The shortage of building materials is evident - there are no wall counters, instead the lower walls have been painted in a mahogany colour to simulate where the counters should be. Some of the new stock was sourced from the mainland, other items were purchased locally.

Woolworth girls on the Esplanade in 1937

Link

Woolworth Museum website's Channel Islands pages

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