The Woolworths Museum

1950s Stationery, Cards and Books

Retractable biros for ninepence - a brand new line at Woolworths in 1949

We take them completely for granted today, but back in 1949 a cheap retractable ball point pen was absolutely brand new. Woolworth's sold millions of them in the first few weeks after the launch at a bargain price of 9d (3¾p) each

Displays of Greeting Cards were transformed during the 1950s as tiered shelving replaced the glass dividers that Woolworth's had used for more than forty years.

For more than forty years Woolworth stores had displayed Greeting Cards on flat table top counters, where they stood between glass dividers. The layout was transformed in all stores soon after the firm started to experiment with self-service. A new fixture was designed for the superstore at Cornmarket, Oxford, which used tiered shelving on a special gondola counter that came to be known as a card rack. Sales rocketed. The idea was later extended right across the store estate. Most received the new look a number of years before the rest of the store converted to self-service.


Customers browse the displays of Christmas Books and Gifts in 1953. The customers are all smartly dressed with many wearing hats and raincoats. (Image with special thanks to Reg and Ray Gallanders)

Each Christmas saw extended displays of hardbook books, which were a popular gift. Most were sold for five shillings (25p) or less. These were displayed on table tops and, where possible, customers were given plenty of space to browse and make a selection.

The picture shows the layout of the Pontypool store in Gwent (Monmouthshire), Wales in 1953. Most shoppers are wearing and hats and coats. At the time many people 'dressed up' to go out shopping.


Colleagues at Erith, Kent ready to sell annuals or, if you prefer, pic'n'mix

Another regular Fifties Christmas stocking filler was an Annual or Picture Book. Woolworth stores obliged with a wide selection. The top seller was the Rupert Annual, which was published by the Daily Express and was sold exclusively in the High Street stores.

In Erith, Kent these were displayed right behind the pic'n'mix sweet counter. Many lucky local children received a book and a quarter (125g) of gobstoppers that season!


Navigation Links

Point and shoot picture


Store front


Sweets and ices




Toiletries and cosmetics


Pictures, artificial flowers and fancy goods


Christmas cards and decorations




Cards, stationery and books


Wool and haberdashery


Children's, Men's and Ladies' Fashions




China and Glassware




Kitchen and Homewares


Paint, DIY and Repair




Building the store


Grand staircase



Shortcuts to related content


1950s Gallery



Grand re-openings


H.M. Queen Elizabeth II's Coronation


The mobile shop


Interactive Fifties Store


Embassy Records cover story


Digital Jukebox


Advent of self-service


Commonwealth Openings


Zimbabwe Album


Caribbean Album


Fiftieth birthday celebrations


A warning from the USA


What's on TV?


Museum Navigation


1940s Gallery


1960s Gallery


Museum Home Page