Amidst all the debate and general sadness about the demise of Woolies I found an almost forgotten memory.

It came back to me, unbidden, in one of those in between moments when I was travelling from sleep to wakefulness. Not a dream, just a sudden recollection of two enormous cardboard crates and their unwanted contents.

I used to work at Woolworths, just evenings and weekends, but it was paid work and I was very pleased to be earning my own money. I was still at school, so it provided my introduction to the world of work.

The retail year had a rhythm all of its own. Early December: last of the Christmas trees and decorations leave the stockroom and hit the shop floor; vacant stockroom space promptly taken up by newly delivered Easter eggs. Were Woolies selling off eggstra early Easter chocolate before they closed for good?

Another annual delivery consisted of the aforementioned two boxes, which contained a selection of the ugliest handbags money could buy. They arrived for the January sale every year. Made of some cheap synthetic material, which did not succeed in its attempt to resemble leather, in a selection of lurid hues and unattractive styles, they had a certain sense of timelessness. They were the kind of item that would always be out of fashion.

Every year we dutifully unpacked the ugliest handbags in England, filled half an aisle of shelves with them, watched people rummage through them, tidied them up again at the end of each day. The manager used to count them from time to time, just to confirm the simple and obvious truth: the one thing that we hadn’t done was actually sell any of them. In three years we only managed of rid of two or three. Sometime during February we used to pack them up again and send them back to the warehouse, where they sat, waiting to reappear the following year.

That was over 20 years ago, but it was only a few years ago that I revisited SmallTown with my Mum and took a nostalgia trip into Woolies. There they were. Still. Half an aisle of the ugliest handbags in all Engerland.

I suspect that they are lurking somewhere still. Even in the bunfight of Woolies’ last days I can’t imagine anyone buying them. Mind you, most of them were somewhat on the enormously large side. Perhaps SmallTown Woolies managed to give them away as carrier bags. Then again, maybe not.

1 comment to Handbags

  • I made a last pass through an almost ransacked Woolies a few days ago. I was pleased to see the pic n mix was still in action.

    Now that 80 have been ‘rescued’ by Iceland I’m wondering if there’s a back-story to be exposed.

    My thought was that someone involved with iceland was also involved with one of those icelandic banks that popped. I’m probably wrong but it will be worth a dig around.

    Something to check next week if the journos don’t get there first.