50 year anniversary of cut-price retailer Grandfare’s launch in Aberdeen

Shoppers in Grandfare’s fresh meat section on the day it opened.

Supermarkets that offer low, low prices are commonplace across the North-east today.

But 50 years ago this week, when the first discount store opened its doors in Aberdeen, the response from shoppers was a lot more suspicious.

Such was the intrigue surrounding the new Grandfare on Shiprow that more than 1,000 eager shoppers waited in line just to get a look around.

Lily Parley and Hazel Walker test the beds in 1982.

In the end it was Aberdeen housewife Glenice Wright who was chosen to officially open the shop in October 1967.

The store, which was set across two floors, catered for all types of shopper.

As well as the large food hall it also sold cosmetics, electrical goods, furniture and motor accessories and even offered in-house shoe repairs and hairdressing.

The massive public interest in the store took bosses by surprise.

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Speaking at the time of the opening, assistant managing director John Harrison said: “The response has been overwhelming. We just didn’t expect so many people.”

Created with convenience for housewives in mind, Grandfare’s “cut-prices” were aimed to be cheaper than anywhere else, and offered an immediate money-back guarantee if the customer wasn’t satisfied.

While today’s supermarket chains, such as Aldi and Lidl, are successful with consumers because of their low prices, in the late 1960s Grandfare’s cut-price offers were met with a degree of scepticism.

The Evening Express even dispatched a journalist to the store to find out what all the fuss was about.

How we covered the store’s opening in 1967.

Writer Evelyn Gauld said: “It’s natural, I feel, to view the words ‘cut-price’ with more than a little suspicion. The first thing one is inclined to think is WHY? And doubts creep in – is it shop-soiled, a ‘second’ inferior quality, out of date?”

However bosses stressed the items were guaranteed by the store to be “perfect”.

Mr Harrison said: “We offer tremendous variety … value everywhere – all cut-price. We try to provide the housewife with the service she wants, value for money and the ability to shop at her own leisure.”

Former Grandfare employee Richard Fromholc remembered his days at Grandfare fondly.

The store as it looked in 1974.

He said: “I joined Grandfare at 17 as a butcher’s assistant – my friends and I had taken a dislike to the woodwork teacher at school so we turned our attentions to the domestic science class.”

The 64-year-old, who now works for oil company Total in Kingswells, spent four years at the store, which later became What Everyone Wants.

He added: “One thing that stands out to me is the frequent power outages we had – I’m not sure why they happened, but it was quite often.

“We had candles at the end of the meat counter, we still tried to do business in the dark.

“Another thing I remember is the cobbler – platform shoes were quite in fashion back then but you couldn’t really buy them in Aberdeen, they were only really available in places like London, so what we’d do was buy brand new boots and take them to the cobbler.

“He would rip off the sole and then add layers and layers of leather to produce a platform which ended up being quite expensive.

“He was a lovely lad, the cobbler, always had a smile on his face when he saw us coming with brand new boots.

“Everyone would ask ‘why are you doing that to brand new boots?’ but it was the fashion, the girls prefer taller men.

“I had an amazing time at Grandfare, met quite a few friends.”

How shop’s prices compare then and now …
  • Morphy Richards food mixer – £6 and 15 shillings (reduced from £17, 14 shillings and 10 pence) worth £86.81 in today’s money.
  • Ladies’ reindeer fur-lined waterproof high-leg boots – 29 shillings and 6 pence (reduced from £1, 19 shillings and 11 pence) worth £18.97 now.
  • Heinz Beans – 1 shilling (reduced from 1 shilling and 3 pence) worth 64p today. 
  • Dulux gloss paint – 16 shillings and 6 pence (reduced from 19 shillings and 11 pence) now worth £10.61.
  • McVitie’s Rich Tea – 10 pence (reduced from a shilling), 54p now. Quilted
  • Courtelle housecoats – £1, 9 shillings and 11 pence (a saving of 10 shil-lings) worth £25.67 now.
  • A desk and chair – £3, 5 shillings and 11 pence (down from £3, 12 shillings and 11 pence) worth £80.96.