It is well worth it!

City store a household name in Barbados

Captain of Industries-02For more than five decades, this landmark Bridgetown store has been a household name in Barbados, offering bargains on a wide range of products from school uniforms and books to kitchen and household supplies, and everything else in between.

As one of the oldest City retail outlets, Woolworth, the Bargain Store, has undoubtedly made a significant contribution to the island’s development over the past 50 years.

Today, Managing Director Martin Bryan is one of the driving forces behind the continuing development of the business. He took over at the helm around 2009 after being involved in a different role for about eight years prior.

Managing Director of Woolworth Martin Bryan
Managing Director of Woolworth Martin Bryan

“It has changed quite substantially. We have established quite a lot of our own contacts with distributors in Central America, China, in the United States and Canada and we deal directly with them,” Bryan told Barbados TODAY.

Years ago, everything on sale in the store was sourced through the United Kingdom since the local Woolworth was a branch of the Woolworth UK chain. About 20 years ago, however, the Barbados operation was sold to the manager at the time, Bryan’s father-in-law.

After his death, Bryan and his wife acquired the business. “So it has been in the family for the last 25 years,” Bryan said. “Prior to that it was part of the UK chain.”

Stressing that Woolworth’s items are unique and affordable, Bryan went on: “That is why we are known as the bargain store. You get value for money, good products at good prices”.

Shortly after taking over at the helm, Bryan was not afraid to take on a few new challenges. These included closing what used to be a popular in-store canteen upstairs on the second floor and using this space to open a children’s clothing department which is doing good business.

Bryan transformed the overall layout of the store, expanding the souvenirs, toys and books departments. “Over the years we have made the departments bigger and better than they were before. Better merchandise, better layout and generally our customers are quite happy.”

While Bryan performs the role of “chief problem solver”, overseeing day-to-day operations, his wife, Laura, goes in search of unique retail items and makes all the purchases. As the seasons change, so does the assortment of items in the store.

“I think we have upped the game,” said Bryan. “When we came into the business, we created a place where, you had department stores before, but we created the discount department store where there is value for money.”

Bryan is proud that Woolworth offers residents and visitors from all income categories, value for money. However, he is especially pleased that budget conscious Barbadians are able to “get goods at great prices [leaving] them with a lot more disposable income in their pockets”.

“People have noticed. They say, ‘I come into your store and I am going to pick up the same items and it saves me a couple of dollars as opposed to going somewhere else’. And they can use that money for whatever they need,” Bryan added.

The father of two girls, ages 14 and 11, also boasts of the store’s employment opportunities. Woolworth currently has a staff complement of 60 people. It can go as high as 100 during the summer and Christmas periods, when they take on “a lot of part-timers and students”.

The bargain store is heavily involved in the community, providing sponsorships and giving to charities, but prefers not say much about these activities. Bryan disclosed that Woolworth, over the years, has assisted a significant number of fire victims, albeit indirectly.

It is Bryan’s wish that operators in the retail sector “come together” more. Pointing out that last Christmas was very vibrant due mainly to a partnership with industry players, the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), Government and LED Caribbean Lighting, Bryan said the lighting campaign had brought back some life to the City.

“We are going to try, maybe, to get a shuttle system in place. Maybe work with the Government to get a shuttle system in place doing a circle to three or four car parks or two or three pick up points,” he said, explaining that such a system should encourage more people to do their shopping in Bridgetown.

“I think the prices now in Barbados have come down and certainly the selection that we have and some of the bigger department stores, that you can get a good selection without feeling the need to pick up and go to Trinidad, Guyana, Jamaica or Miami,” he said.

However, there is “one big problem” facing retailers in Barbados, Bryan said. It is the slow pace of business at the Bridgetown Port and Customs Department which, he said, was resulting in increased charges for business operators.

“Sometimes the goods can take a while to get out the port. Every day is dollars lost. There is this demurrage charge that we are being charged because we are not being expedited because they are including weekends into the number of days you can clear goods and all of this relates into the cost of goods,” he lamented.

The businessman said depending on the country’s economic performance, Woolworth could establish operations at another location in the “foreseeable future”.

Optimistic about continued business growth, Bryan said Woolworth has been slowly but surely capturing market share. “I think the outlook for the retail sector in Barbados is challenging but I have a positive outlook,” he said.

“Here at Woolworth, we have the competitive edge over a lot of stores in Barbados, primarily in Bridgetown, because we have the selection that no one has. People come in here because they can find anything they want at reasonable prices.”

He added: “We have been around in 60 years. We have seen changes and improvements. Obviously there is always room for improvement, which we strive to do better. So I see us growing. I see us having another branch sometime in the future.”

As Barbados celebrates its golden jubilee of Independence this year, Bryan wants Barbadians to take more pride in their country. He expressed the view that the island was slipping away from being known as the “jewel of the Caribbean”, and urged Barbadians to care more for each other.

“If we look at the state of our country, the state of our roads, the state of the garbage on the streets, it is quite appalling to me when you can see people who are supposed to have pride and industry and you go on the beaches, the highways and bi-ways and there is litter all over the place,” said Bryan.

“We need to take pride in what we have here. Also, Barbadians need to take pride in themselves in terms of the work ethic – coming in to work on time and putting in a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. If we can be productive and have some pride in our nation and ourselves, we can compete with anybody in the world because we have the acumen, we have the education. Barbadians on a whole are very versatile and we can weather a storm,” he added.

Bryan noted it was challenging for the store during the economic downturn, but management and staff worked closely to ensure there were no staff cuts.

“We put measures in place where we cut our expenses to ensure that although sales were dropping, we were not in a position where we had to lay off any one,” he explained.

“In doing that, we have weathered and hopefully will keep weathering the storm. Our staff are quite hard workers . . . it is a good family type environment. The common goal is to see Woolworth grow and succeed.”

52 Responses to It is well worth it!

  1. Zena Chandler
    Zena Chandler April 1, 2016 at 9:54 am

    I thought Woolworth was out off business, this maybe the only one left.

  2. Rosie Noel
    Rosie Noel April 1, 2016 at 10:02 am

    There are alot of them in Australia

  3. Ronnie Murrell
    Ronnie Murrell April 1, 2016 at 10:08 am

    Good ol’ Mr. Woollies

  4. Ann Aquarius
    Ann Aquarius April 1, 2016 at 10:19 am

    🙂 i love woolworth

  5. Cheryl Alleyne-Brooks
    Cheryl Alleyne-Brooks April 1, 2016 at 10:20 am

    I was so sad when you delete the canteen, the best hamburgers and milk shake in the whole of Bim. And you had to know it cause they use to go like hot cakes, every time I visit home, all I ever say I wish I could get me one of them burgers, anyway congrats and continue blessings

    • Jennifer Lynch April 1, 2016 at 1:05 pm

      My Mum use to make those Hamburgers.

    • Rhonda Jordan Smith
      Rhonda Jordan Smith April 1, 2016 at 5:52 pm

      The best hamburgers I have ever had!

  6. Vylna Agnes George
    Vylna Agnes George April 1, 2016 at 10:27 am

    Love Woollies, I look forward to going there everytime I am in Barbados x

  7. Harr Gitty
    Harr Gitty April 1, 2016 at 10:37 am

    Congratulations! I’m hoping you would open 2 more stores .One in the South the other in the North .

  8. Kim Sealy
    Kim Sealy April 1, 2016 at 10:40 am

    Childhood memories #goodtimes 🙂

  9. Diane Elaine Dias
    Diane Elaine Dias April 1, 2016 at 11:01 am

    Please please don’t sell out to MASSEY…..I beg of thee.

    • t April 1, 2016 at 5:19 pm

      so true i hope that does not happen..

    • Sonia Romain
      Sonia Romain April 1, 2016 at 6:09 pm
  10. Glenda Jane Jeffrey
    Glenda Jane Jeffrey April 1, 2016 at 11:05 am

    Closed down in the uk

  11. Kelly-Ann Webster
    Kelly-Ann Webster April 1, 2016 at 11:05 am

    Love this store

  12. Alex Steele
    Alex Steele April 1, 2016 at 11:15 am

    Love Woolworth reasonable kids clothes

  13. Dawn Stoute
    Dawn Stoute April 1, 2016 at 11:30 am

    Always shop at Woolworth!!! First place I go when in B’town!!! Keep up the good work!!!

  14. Mar Git
    Mar Git April 1, 2016 at 11:30 am

    I love woolworth

  15. Cherylann Bourne-Hayes
    Cherylann Bourne-Hayes April 1, 2016 at 11:30 am

    Great points in the article. Bim needs more businesses like this. The ones that look out for the communities.

  16. Thea Clarke
    Thea Clarke April 1, 2016 at 11:36 am

    Chee Kamal

  17. Valarie Rock
    Valarie Rock April 1, 2016 at 11:45 am

    Worked there in my school vacation in the 70s.With supervisors like Ms.Gollop,Ms.Linton, Ms.Jackman,Ms. Hall. and the big tall burly Mr.Hilburn.

    • Valarie Rock
      Valarie Rock April 1, 2016 at 11:47 am

      How can I forget Goody?Heather Dottin-Bancroft?

    • Hazel Taitt
      Hazel Taitt April 1, 2016 at 10:30 pm

      Valarie Rock I worked there with those ladies too

  18. Cindy Rickerby
    Cindy Rickerby April 1, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Love Woolworth can always find something to buy thete when im home

  19. Sonia April 1, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    I am suggesting that you add online shopping.

  20. jrsmith April 1, 2016 at 12:44 pm

    Good old Woolworths, saw the demise of the brand in the UK, hail , hail to Bryan and Bajans keep the flame going…

  21. Tony Webster April 1, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    Excellent business-people. First class, from Roger (R.I.P.), right forward. Barbados would be poorer without these folks and the excellent value which they offer to our society.

  22. Deb Pollard
    Deb Pollard April 1, 2016 at 1:29 pm

    Anna Pollard what a fab place to work!☀️

  23. Angela Bibby-Brown
    Angela Bibby-Brown April 1, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    Was just there last week .

  24. Karen Wall April 1, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    Best place to shop… very helpful sales persons who are friendly and very willing to help… it’s is one of my main stops everytime I visit Bridgetown… to see what is new and what bargains they have in store

  25. Jennifer Cole Raesch
    Jennifer Cole Raesch April 1, 2016 at 2:21 pm

    Love shopping at Woolworth, but dislike shopping in Bridgetown, wish there was a branch in another part of the island. That would be nice and convenient.

  26. Everlina Brath
    Everlina Brath April 1, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    Woolworth has served the people of this Nation very well .Reasonable prices and good bargains.

  27. Debbie Stuckman
    Debbie Stuckman April 1, 2016 at 3:19 pm

    You have a Woolworth???

  28. Anne Fields
    Anne Fields April 1, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    Best store in town!

  29. Peter Merrifield
    Peter Merrifield April 1, 2016 at 3:25 pm

    See you later this year all things being equal

  30. Mary Proverbs April 1, 2016 at 3:43 pm

    Just wanted to say well done for keeping your woolworths store going to provide merchandise at a reasonable price I miss our one here in Greenford Middlesex (in the London Borough of Ealing )I was married to a Bajan my Daughter and Grandson have just returned to the UK after two weeks there to visit family who com from Haggatt Hall ST Michael.

  31. Susan Adelle Chapman Kirton
    Susan Adelle Chapman Kirton April 1, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    I love shopping at Woolworth. Every time I go into town I have to make a stop there.

  32. Andrew A Lewis
    Andrew A Lewis April 1, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    The only Woolworth in the world that still standing strong.

  33. Louise Annastasia Burton
    Louise Annastasia Burton April 1, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    Lesley Howard, Leona Burton Woolworths in Barbados, imagine that! Xxx

    • Leona Burton
      Leona Burton April 1, 2016 at 5:51 pm

      No way!! Defs robbing off the pick n mix X

    • Leona Burton
      Leona Burton April 1, 2016 at 5:55 pm

      Do you think you could answer the phone Lou Lou? X

  34. Jewan Abram
    Jewan Abram April 1, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    Oh my 9 year old daughter loves Woolworth

  35. Sam Alleyne April 1, 2016 at 5:56 pm

    Love Woolworth, anything you needed you could find there. my mother bought school uniforms there for both my sister and I. Like Cheryl Brooks said, best hamburgers and milkshakes anywhere.

  36. Donild Trimp April 1, 2016 at 6:02 pm

    Nice article and well thought out words by the manager. Kudos to you sir.

    I like the shuttle idea. This guy is way ahead of the curve ball. Nice.

  37. Sonia Romain
    Sonia Romain April 1, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    Open back the canteen Woolworth.

  38. Tracy Maynard
    Tracy Maynard April 1, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    Nice to see woolworths in barbados has survived. We lost all of ours in th UK may years ago

  39. June Simmons
    June Simmons April 1, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    good memories especially the hamburgers

  40. June Simmons
    June Simmons April 1, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    good memories especially the hamburgers

  41. Suzette edghill April 1, 2016 at 10:22 pm

    Love Woolworth but unfortunately I cannot make the walk from any of the car parks in town. Hopefully we will see another Woolworth branch.

  42. janette reifer April 1, 2016 at 11:54 pm

    Woolworth is a big one in town. Believe it or not !

  43. Jan bless April 2, 2016 at 5:31 am

    The only place to shop especially at Christmas… Love this place and now that I know you give back I will shop even more. The Word says that you should give and not boast about it…Blessings on you indeed..

  44. Andrew Rudder April 5, 2016 at 10:34 am

    Well said and well done Mr Bryan! Many more years to you and the company and staff!


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