Woodward’s Food Floors









Woodward’s changed their grocery department to self-service in the fall of 1919, then Woodward’s grocery department was referred to as “Woodward’s Groceteria” Dept. Perhaps our customers kept referring to it as Woodward’s Foods??


There was only one store at this time, the Vancouver store at Abbott and Hastings Street. Charles Woodward, to his two son’s relief, was sometimes at his ranch in California. On one occasion Puggy Woodward seized the opportunity to try out an idea which he had turning over in his mind for months. Horses and wagons for delivery were gradually giving place to motor vans. This expense and rising costs were pushing up the price of merchandise. He believed that nothing mattered more to customers than the ability to buy the best for less. Why not let them serve themselves? Why not, in certain departments such as Food, cut out free delivery, minimize the sales staff and pass the savings to the customers?


The Grocery Department at that time was twenty-five hundred square feet. Taking advantage of his father’s absence, he removed the counters, replaced them with kitchen tables which he had loaded with groceries, reduced prices by fifteen percent and started Woodward’s Self-Service Groceteria. Even the word “Groceteria” was then almost unknown.


The results of this experiment were electrifying according to Harker’s research. On the first day the crowds were so large that they could hardly be handled.  Charles was never generous in his praise where his sons were concerned, and though he eventually accepted the Groceteria concept and he could not deny its success. Woodward’s “Groceteria“ had come to stay. Customers who had been used to buying their groceries over the counter with free delivery proved beyond doubt that they preferred to buy them at a reduced price, select them and carry them home themselves.




The British promotion was an annual event, usually in March, (sometimes in the fall prior to Christmas)  for the Woodward’s Food Floors in almost every section of the food floor, particularly in the Specialty food section (British biscuits, Great selection of tea, cookies, cakes, puddings, cheeses, candies, sauces, canned items etc. The Deli section always carried British-made meat pies, sausage etc. The restaurants/cafeteria had special British items on their menu during the promotion: Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, Sheppard's pie, bangers and mashed potatoes, liver and onions etc. The Bakery Dept. always had fruit cakes and shortbread cookies etc. The Meat dept. also participated with items for favourite English recipes, including mincemeat, kippers and liver etc..


Retail divisions often tied into the British Promotion theme and advertised British-made product in the departments that sold British items....Authentic English Teddy Bears, Dolls and other toy items, Baskerville Photo Frames, British Souvenir T-Shirts, Sadler Collectible Teapots, Churchill Candies in Collectible Tins, Old Country Roses Commemorative Cups and Saucers, Fine China, Union Jack Boxer Shorts, British Wool sweaters, Jackets etc., ‘Celebration’ or “Queen Anne” Silver plate, Sentry Scots Guard Ornaments, British Prints, Stephen Shelby and Ariel Press.


Woodward’s tried to bring in the best of Great Britain into their stores! During British promotions, customers could find specialty shops featuring British-made merchandise, British inspired collector’s items, souvenirs, travel offers, and delectable tastes from across the water.  There was special in-store events, fashion shows, music, guest appearances, all focused around the Great Britain Celebration. To top it all off, customers could win one of four trips for two to England from Canadian Airlines and Canadian holidays.


Woodard’s always tried to make shopping at Woodward’s a fun experience and during the British promotion each time it was held it was always a jolly ol’ time!