Woodward’s staff policies….
“Promotion from within the organization” was not just an empty phrase at Woodward’s! Looking back through the history of the company, there are thousands of examples of men and women who started at the bottom and worked their way to important and rewarding jobs over their years of employment with Woodward’s. Here are just a few examples of some of the more interesting success stories:
George Dennison Glanville—years of service (1929-1972)
The 43 years within the span of these two dates encompass the successful career of G.D. Glanville who worked his way up to President of Woodward’s Stores Limited. Born in Edmonton, Alberta, he attended grade school in New Westminster. In his late teens, on January 22nd, 1929, he launched his merchandising career as a stockman in the Fashion Department of the Vancouver Store. It didn’t take long before his natural ability for merchandising and leadership brought results and he was promoted to Ass’t Manager.
His next step up the ladder came in 1932 when he was appointed Manager of the Notions Depts. Shortly afterwards, the Handbags section was added to his responsibilities. In 1935 with profits in his departments showing a steady increase, Cosmetics came under his supervision. Three years later, he took over Hosiery, Gloves, and Jewellery.
It was 1945 when he stepped up to the Merchandise Office. His career continued to surge ahead with further promotions in succeeding years including his promotion to General Manager, climaxed by his appointment to President of the Company in 1963.
In August 1966, Mr. Glanville was named Chairman of the Board of Directors of “Project 200 Properties Limited”, a group setup for the development of a large section in the Vancouver downtown area. He retired in February 1972 after 43 years of vigorous service to Woodward’s Stores Ltd. His foresight, efficiency, remarkable merchandising knowledge and administration ability were major factors in Woodward’s success and growth in the 1950’s & 60s.
Thomas R. Farrell—years of service (1928-1975, Director to 1986)
No one could see that when T. R. Farrell started out on the lowest rung of the ladder of the Food Floor at age 14, as a part-time clean up boy in the Meat Department in the Vancouver Store, becoming full time when he was 17, that he would retire 47years later as President of Woodward’s…but that’s exactly what happened on January 31st, 1972 when he was elevated to the presidents office.
Tom worked his way up on the Food Floor and grew to know every facet of the food operation until he was promoted to General Manager of Foods for Woodward’s. He was a very progressive manager. His dream was to emulate Harrod’s food operation. With the wide selection of specialty foods, candy, tobacco products, etc. at Woodward’s, he came close. The food floors offered 1700 Woodward’s brand products –one of the most popular being peanut butter. Tom created the atmosphere that enabled Woodward’s food operation to excel. The food advertising won many awards.
When he was transferred in 1957, to take over the job of Vice-President and Ass’t General Manager in the Merchandise Office, he left behind an enviable reputation as an image-maker and idea man. Many ideas were directly responsible for the Food Division becoming one of the Company’s major operations! Aside from fair merchandising policies, they had become famous for their colourful and unique promotions. Whether it was featuring orchids direct from Hawaii, frozen lamb from Australia, French pastries from Paris or cheese from around the world…all were touched with Mr. Farrell’s flair for perfection and the dramatic. He didn’t believe in keeping abreast of the times…he was usually well ahead of the times. Tom Farrell’s talents brought him to the position of President of the Woodward’s Companies from 1972 until his retirement in 1975.
The heartstrings of the general public, as well as Woodward’s staff and management, were tugged by one of his very popular brainchilds…”Operation Wheelchair”. It developed into a thoroughly community effort in BC and Alberta….one of the most heartwarming, exciting events of the year! What was more important, it proved to be a delight, and memorable occasion to countless handicapped people who otherwise would never have the opportunity to do their own Christmas shopping.
Mr Farrell also played a big part in the introduction of Woodward’s specialty shops, boutique shops, and bookstores either as in-store or separate outlets.
On an airplane flight, Tom happened to sit beside a merchant from the US who had purchased Sweda cash registers. He extolled their virtue of being made from stainless steel. Tom was impressed, and on return to Vancouver he obtained the Sweda franchise for all of Canada. Woodwards subsequently, became the largest user of Sweda registers in North America.
T.R. was a true gentleman and a fine merchant! After he retired, he was always interested in what was going on at Woodward’s and in the food and retail industry. His presence as a Woodpens’ Club Member and at Woodpens’ Club functions, right up to a month before his passing at the age of ninety-two on December 2, 2006, was most appreciated.
Charles Reginald Clarridge—years of service (1934-1979)
The 45 years within the span of these two dates encompass the successful career of Reg Clarridge. Reg was hired during the Christmas rush in 1933 as a part-time stockboy for the Cosmetic Department. The young stockboy of 17 made quite an impression on his manager, G.D. Glanville and he was soon placed on permanent staff. He was soon promoted to be in charge of all mail orders for Cosmetics, Notions, Hosiery, and handbags. In 1941, his conscientious attitude towards his job and merchandising paid off, as he was promoted to Assistant Manager.
One day after the attack on Pearl Harbour, on December 8th, 1941, Reg signed up for the R.C.A.F. and served in Canada, United Kingdom and the Continent. He was discharged four years later with the rank of corporal.
One year after his return to civilian life and Woodward’s, he took over the duties of Manager of the departments he had left, on Mr Glanville’s promotion to the Merchandise Office. In 1954, Mr. Clarridge was promoted to Merchandise Manager of the newly opened New Westminster Store, under Store Manager, C.N. Woodward. Later that year, he took over as Store Manager when Mr. C.N was recalled downtown. Shortly after his latest appointment, the late Hon. W. C. Woodward appointed Reg to the Board of Directors of Woodward’s. Stores Limited.
In 1959, Reg was appointed Store Manager of the newest jewel in the Woodward chain—Store 8, Oakridge, and in 1960 he was sent to open the Store 9 in Calgary, Chinook.
In 1961, Reg was again on the move. He was sent back to Montreal as President of a newly formed joint partnership with Steinbergs, the largest food chain in Montreal, a subsidiary company known as Woodward’s and Steinberg’s was formed in which Woodward’s would manage the department store and Steinberg’s the food supermarket. Woodward’s withdrew from the enterprise in 1962.
Mr. Clarridge returned to Vancouver and the Merchandise Office as Vice President and General Merchandise Manager. In 1975, he was promoted to the position of President, the position he held until his retirement in1979.
Mr. Clarridge was a good “people person”, with a great sense of humour! He sincerely believed that the future at Woodward’s was unlimited for all, that is, if you have the energy for hard work and you were willing to keep training yourself for any opportunity that may arise. He proved his point.
Frank A. “Robbie” Robertson: February 6,1930-January 2.2015
—years of service at Woodward’s (1948—1988)
The 40 years between the span of these two dates encompass the successful career of Frank “Robbie” Robertson who worked his way up to the position of President and Chief Executive Officer in 1985.
From his early teens, Robbie wanted to work in a store. He wanted to work with people. At the age of 13 he was stocking shelves and delivering groceries on his bike. He was also an agent for Liberty Magazine and sold a line of rubber door mats. His parents wanted him to go to university, but he wanted to get out and get a job in a store. At that time, Robbie’s father worked for Woodward’s when Robbie was a young boy. His father started trimming windows in the Vancouver store and worked his way up to manager of the dress goods department. Managers then also did the buying. Growing up in the home, Robbie would hear stories about the store and his father’s travels as a buyer. That, perhaps, is what whetted his appetite.
Robbie launched his merchandising career at Woodward’s by starting at the bottom. In August of 1948, at the age of 18, he started working in the receiving department in the downtown Edmonton Store (the only Woodward Store in Alberta at that time). In a short time, he got to know the merchandise throughout the store, that was coming through the receiving department on a daily basis. It was not long before his ability for merchandising and leadership was recognised. In 1950 he was promoted to the men’s wear department stockroom on the main floor. For two years, he looked after the stockroom in the mornings and worked on the selling floor in the afternoons. For a very brief time he was promoted to the position of Assistant Manager of the Drapery Dept. and then back to the Men’s Wear as Assistant Manager.
At the age of 21, in 1951, he was promoted to the position of manager of the Boy’s Wear Department on the third floor. He was the youngest manager in the Company at that time. In 1954 he was again promoted back to the main floor as manager of the Men’s Wear Dept. His department showed steady sales increases each year. In the downtown store too, business was surging forward. This success was in no small measure due to a team of able, aggressive managers nicknamed “The Young Lions” who included Frank Robertson, Alex Weir, Nesbitt McGregor, “Pidge” McBride and others who were later to attain top positions in the Company
In the fall of 1957, Robbie was transferred to the Downtown Vancouver Store as Manager of the Men’s Wear Department. In the spring of1960, Robbie was promoted to the position of Senior Buyer of the Men’s Wear Division, travelling to the markets mostly in Canada. In 1962 he started travelling to the Orient. He met and got to know the buyers from Nordstroms. He felt that their agents were doing a much better job for them, than our agents in the Orient at that time were doing for Woodward’s. He was instrumental in changing our agents, which was a very smart move!
His career continued to surge ahead with further promotions. In 1967 he was promoted to the Merchandise Office as Merchandise Manager of Fashions for the Company. He was appointed to the Board of Directors in 1972. In 1975 he was promoted to the position of Vice-President and General Merchandise Manager, Woodward Stores Ltd. and in 1976 to the position of Senior Vice-President, Merchandising for the Company. In 1981, Robbie was made Executive Vice-President of Woodward Stores Limited.
After 37 years with the Company, in 1985, Robbie became President and Chief Executive Officer of the Company, with great challenges ahead for him. He called it “The Challenge of Change”. This challenge of change was to become the biggest course correction in the Company history. Frank Robinson retired in 1988 after forty years of loyal service.
Robbie was a gentleman and a “good people person” and he liked people working as a team. He felt that a single person cannot produce results by himself. For Robbie, Woodward’s was always a “we” Company, and not an “I” Company. He really loved Woodward’s and the retail business! When talking about his career at Woodward’s, he is quite modest, “I have managed to be at the right place, at the right time, at the right age.”
(The above was written after an interview with Robbie on Monday, December 15th, 2014.)
Frank A. (Robbie) Robertson passed away on January 2, 2015. His passing came as a surprise as John Bishop had just talked to Robbie on the phone in mid-December about his career at Woodward’s and after hearing the news of Robbie’s passing, John was thankful to have had the opportunity to talk to him before his health took a turn for the worse.
Robbie was a loyal and true Woodwardite. He is truly missed by his wife Eileen, family and friends! On behalf of all Woodpens’ Club members, and former employees, sincere condolences go out to his family and friends. May they find comfort in precious memories.
John Woodward – The last Woodward President.
Phil McComb—From Musician to Vice-President
In 1947 Phil McComb was going to high school in Edmonton, playing in a band and working part-time selling shoes in the downtown Edmonton Store. Thirty-three years later, in 1980, Phil was promoted to Vice-President, Operations for all of the Alberta stores, the position he held until he retired in the late eighties.
He began playing the violin at age six and was making appearances with the Edmonton Symphony and civic opera groups by his mid teens. Then he discovered the trumpet. Soon he had his own professional band and was associating with the likes of Tommy Banks and Robert Goulet in the early stages of their careers.
For six years he lived a dual existence, working at his job at Woodward’s and leading his band— until his boss, Denny Harding gave Phil a choice—Woodward’s or professional music. That was the shock that turned Phil around. Mr. Harding sat down with Phil, reviewing his strengths and weaknesses and Phil then knew where he wanted to go in the Company.
Phil worked in Men’s Wear, Men’s and Ladies’ Shoes, Ladies’ Sportswear and Children’s Wear and Lingerie before becoming Manager of the Downtown Edmonton store. While Store Manager, he also worked very closely with G.W. MacLaren (Woody), General Merchandising Manager of Alberta Stores. Phil succeeded Mr. MacLaren as General Merchandising Manager, Alberta, until he was appointed Vice-President, Alberta Operations in July 31, 1980, succeeding Jack Moxon.
Phil always said “you’ve got to be at the right spot at the right time, but you also have to be a pretty sincere individual and be willing to work pretty darn hard. You also have to be able to get along with people”. Phil worked hard, and was a “good people person”. He was aggressive and innovative--he practiced what he preached!
Joe felt that the popular conception that display only attracts artsy prima donnas is untrue. He believed that while many trimmers are true artists, they must direct their creative efforts toward one goal---selling merchandise! The merchandise is number one. He preached “We want customers to notice what we are selling. We want them to realize that we are a full-line department store—one stop shopping from foods to hardware to fashion.”
In 1988, Woodward’s Joe Debruin received one of the highest honours available in the visual presentation industry. He was inducted into the National Association of Display Industries Hall of Fame in New York. Joe is only the second Canadian to receive the honour.
Joe takes his profession very seriously as evidenced by his high profile in the visual community. In 1984, he received an Annual Display Award in the full-line department store category. He is one of the original members of the Society of Visual Merchandisers and is a member of Inspiration Academy, an elite group sponsored by Inspiration, a worldwide magazine for display professionals.
One of Joe’s greatest and most popular achievements at Woodward’s was the creation of the 18 animated windows, in the Vancouver store, with the latest technology from New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other large cities. Each window highlighted how Woodward’s heritage and the Canadian West were intertwined. Some of those animations are still set up annually at Canada Place Convention Centre in Vancouver during the Christmas Season.
By John Bishop
John Bishop--- years of service (1962-1992)
John Bishop remembers his days at Oakridge Shopping Centre as being some of the best days of his life....starting at an early age! Back in 1942, the 32 acre site on what would become Oakridge Shopping Centre was bush land owned by the CPR. At the age of almost five years old, he remembers that he and a young friend rode their tricycles from their homes on Adera Street and 49th Ave. (two blocks west of Granville Street), crossing Granville Street and then Oak Street, which at that time was a gravel road with a street-car line running alongside it, to the CPR bush lands bounded by 41st Ave. on the North, Cambie St. on the East, and Oak St. on the West. The Vancouver Gun Club occupied part of the land fronting on Oak St. at approx. 45th Ave. John and his friend were lost for about seven hours when they were picked up by the police and driven home, much to the relief of their mothers.
In August, 1962, John and his wife Sharon were on holidays in Vancouver (John was working for Canadian General Electric in Ottawa and Peterborough, Ontario for three years after getting married and graduating from UBC in May of 1958.) He ran into Douglas Harker in the Sporting Goods Department in the Vancouver store. After talking with Mr Harker for about half an hour, he was asked if he had time to meet Mr. Glanville who was President of Woodward’s at that time. Over lunch, John was offered the job as Oakridge Shopping Centre Manager to replace Paddy Bligh, who oversaw the building and leasing of Canada’s newest and best shopping centre. The Centre was opened in May of 1959 and in early 1961 Paddy Bligh was promoted from his position as Shopping Centre Manager to Manager of Woodward’s Real Estate and Development and later Vice-President of Real Estate & Development. John took over the management of Oakridge Shopping Centre on October 1, 1961 after giving three weeks notice to CGE. Oakridge Centre was indeed the “Centre of Vancouver”.
All the residents of Vancouver and Woodwardites, alike, loved Oakridge...it was an open mall with beautiful flowerbeds and all of the best stores in greater Vancouver were located at Oakridge. It was a place to take friends from out of town and to recommend to tourists. John enjoyed the job very much and felt very priviledged and proud to have such a job!
In November of 1963, John was transferred into retailing after winning the 1962 Woodward’s Merchandise Course. He started in the Sporting Goods Dept. in the Vancouver Store and in July of 1964 he was promoted to the position of Manager, Sporting Goods, Toys, Housewares and China, Cameras and luggage in the new Woodward’s Kamloops Store, which opened in August, 1964. Two years later he was transferred back to Woodward’s Oakridge as manager of Sporting Goods, Cameras, Luggage and Toys.
In August, 1971, he was transferred to Edmonton as Merchandise Manager, Hardgoods, for Alberta, and in January, 1975 he was moved back to Vancouver as Merchandise Manager, Hardgoods for the Company. John really enjoyed the Hardgoods Division and the people he met along the way.....Woodward’s staff......merchandise managers, buyers, department managers and assistant managers, sales staff, office staff, warehouse staff, and suppliers.
In August of 1985 he was transferred from the Merchandise Office to store management. He spent one year as Store Manager of the Coquitlam Store and one year later was transferred to the Oakridge Store. It was ironic, as he was again back where he started, at the Oakridge Shopping Centre and Woodward’s Oakridge.....a site that had gone through a multi-million dollar up-grade and was now again the leading shopping centre in Canada. Woodwards Oakridge, Foods and Retail, enjoyed the highest sales per square foot of any shopping centre, or department store in Canada and was considered the crown jewel in Woodward’s chain.
Along with what he thought was one of the best jobs in the world, John met many famous people including movie stars, recording artists, CEOs of large companies, prime ministers, heads of state, and other positions. Because Oakridge Shopping Centre (and Woodward’s Department Store at Oakridge) was considered to be “The Shopping Centre” in Vancouver and Western Canada, many famous people visited Oakridge. Busloads of tourists from cruise ships and conventions would arrive almost daily during the spring and summer months.
During the “British Week” promotion in 1987, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher visited Woodward’s Department Store and Food Floor. John enjoyed meeting her, however, her secret service people kept changing her route through the store and down the mall and many of the special displays of British merchandise that were placed strategically along the route had to be changed right up to one hour prior to her arrival at Oakridge. Because she was immensely popular with millions of Britons as a patriotic and courageous leader, many thousands of people came to Oakridge to see her that day. John is now looking forward to seeing Meryl Streep star as Margaret Thatcher in the upcoming movie, ”The Iron Lady”!
John retired from his job as Store Manager of Woodward’s Oakridge on October 31st, 1992. He really enjoyed his whole career with Woodward’s and he enjoyed all the people he met and worked with along the way! He felt that he could not have worked for a better company! However, he also felt that his job as Store Manager of Woodward’s Oakridge was one of the best jobs in the world!
Ian Alexander Loudon, November 6, 1929 – February 1, 2019
Ian was born in Scotland and obtained a degree in Chartered Accounting.
In 1953, he and his wife May emigrated to Canada and Ian gained employment with Woodwards Department Stores.
Initially he was employed in the Internal Audit section of the General Office in the Downtown Vancouver Store.
In 1961, he and Jack Barnwell were selected to introduce computer systems. They first selected the credit billing for the Victoria store and operated at the IBM datacenter. This entailed many trips on the BC ferries, back and forth to Victoria. The next step was to acquire a computer system, an IBM 1440, which was installed on the 7TH floor of the Vancouver store. This system was replaced by a larger, IBM 360 system in 1966. Ian became the operations manager of the data center and he was instrumental in its growth, in applications and personal.
In 1975 Ian returned to the General Office as Accounting Systems Manager and was later promoted to Controller.