When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
Archive - Thursday, 5 November 2009
Find by date
Other ways to search
Also look for
Crowds flock as 'son of Woolworths' opens
IT was finally a fitting way to mark Woolworths’ 100th birthday today.
Crowds gather at the new store in Didcot
Alworths, the new high street chain dubbed “son of Woolworths”, opened its first store at the site of the former Woolies in Didcot.
It was the 100th anniversary to the day since Woolworths opened in Britain and exactly 11 months since the Didcot store shut after the collapse of the high street favourite last year.
Hundreds of shoppers were at the Orchard Centre to welcome the new store – run by an ex-Woolworths executive and staffed by ex-Woolworths employees, many of whom have been out of work since the firm went bust.
Alworths wants to open 21 more stores in the next year.
First customer Kieran Beech, 12
Didcot’s branch has given jobs back to 13 former emp-loyees, and up to 50 jobs are set to be created in the run-up to Christmas.
First in the line to collect his free helping of pick ‘n’ mix was Kieran Beech, 12, from Ladygrove.
He said: “There’s lots of new sweets to choose from, and it’s better than Woolworths was. I used to come here at least once a week, and I’ll definitely be coming back after school today.”
Sylvia Honey, 70, from Harwell, who first shopped in Woolworths for broken biscuits and Christmas baubles in the 1950s, said: “Woolworths always had the odd things you couldn’t find anywhere else. The new shop looks nice, and seems to have the same bits and bobs.”
But it was all a bit too much for competition winner Alice Watts, two, who was set to help open the store.
The appearance of a huge Pudsey Bear reduced her to tears before the big moment, although she still won a year’s supply of Pick ‘n’ Mix and a Nintendo Wii.
Ex-Woolworths manager Helen Pook, 39, who started as a Saturday girl before working for the chain for 23 years, got a phone call in September asking her to return to her old post.
She said: “I didn’t hesitate for a moment. Today I feel like I’m coming home, and we’ve the Didcot dream team back. The last four weeks have been a lot of fun, but very, very hard work.”
Colleague Steve Belson, 18, said: “When it closed, it was crazy and sad.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the house. The team was almost like a family.
“I lost my job, and it was the first job I’d ever had. When I got a call offering my job back, I didn’t give it a second thought. Today has been absolutely phenonemal.”
There are two other undisclosed sites in Oxfordshire being considered by Alworths, but neither is expected to open soon.