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Sale of the last century – ads for different ages

By Mark Andrews | Features | Published:

Well that’s Christmas over for another year. All ready for the January sales?

Guinness’s ad has lasted longerthan Wilko’s, Allied and The Grand

Of course, ‘January sales’ are something of a misnomer these days, with the discounts starting from Boxing Day.

But one thing never changes – no sooner have the Christmas presents been unwrapped, than the forces of commerce are looking for new ways of parting us from our hard-earned cash.

Some advertising very much stands the test of time – think Guinness’s famous toucan mascot, for example – but regional newspaper archives are a treasure trove of forgotten marketing masterpieces, many of which provide a fascinating insight into contemporary life.

Half a century ago, as the swinging 60s looked set to make way for the strife-torn 70s, famous West Midland travel chain Don Everall Transglobe was using the lure of sunnier climes to take our minds off the post-Christmas blues.

Don Everall had global travel covered in 1979

Foreign travel was still a new adventure for most people, but Everall’s was now bringing exotic locations such as Tunisia, Portugal and Yugoslavia to the masses.

Well sort of. Everall’s advert in this paper was advertising 12 days in Yugoslavia for 34.5 guineas, or 15 days in Tunisia for 59 guineas. Adjusted for inflation, the foray into Eastern Europe would have set you back the equivalent of £582 per head, and the Tunisian one more than a grand, so these excursions were still quite pricey compared to a week in Margate.

Greece was another destination Everall’s brought to West Midlands folk, for 66.5 guineas ­– or £1,130 at today’s prices – a head, but there was a catch. The flight only went as far as Milan, and then you were expected to travel by coach to the un-specified resort. Which would probably eat into your 15-day break somewhat.

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Today, Wilkinson hardware is in every high street, but half a century ago its branches were less common.

Wilkinson - hard sell on hardware

Judging from the advert for Wilko’s post-Christmas sale at its Shrewsbury store, the company was very much a fan of the hard sell, with everything from plastic dustbins to electric blankets crammed into a very busy ad.

You could buy a ‘20th century rotary clothes airer’ for just shy of 50 bob, although the advert did not give prices for its 19th or 18th century washing lines.

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Transistor radios, which were cheekily advertised as being able to pick up Radio Luxembourg and the illegal pirate radio stations, were guaranteed for six months – and so they should have been at 59s 11d, or just under £50 at today’s prices.

There were real bargains to be had. Jaeger in Wolverhampton was selling suits from £6, or about £100 at today’s prices, with ladies’ dresses at £5 and coats at half-price.

The old Midlands Electricity Board was offering record tokens as an incentive for people to spend big in the run-up to Christmas, although the young lady in the ad had taken this a bit far.

Electrifying offers from the MEB

A mini hairdryer for £5 17s 6d, a coffee percolator for £9 19s 9d, a kettle for £6 13s 1d, a knife sharpener for £4. 7s 6d and a toaster for £9 9s 6d – it seems the one item she forgot to pick up was the record player to play her Temptations LP.

Talking of popular music, yodelling singer Frank Ifield was the star guest of the pantomime at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre. Among the support acts were ‘Syd and Eddie’ – which may well have been Syd Little and Eddie Large, who were at that time still awaiting their big break on Opportunity Knocks.

Frank Ifield was just Grand, but who were Syd and Eddie?

Fast-forward 10 years – yes, cassette players were quite common by 1979­ ­– and the most noticeable thing is how rampant inflation had taken its toll. The £3 radio of 1969 was now a whacking £31.95, although it probably would have had an FM band.

Fur real: you don't see many adverts like this today

In a sign of how attitudes have changed over the last 40 years, Wolverhampton-based Edelson was offering big discounts on its somewhat varied ranges of fur coats: mink, fox, rabbit, even Canadian squirrel – although even the sale prices were a bit on the costly side.

Full-length mink coats were reduced from £1,895 to £995 – or from about £10,000 at today’s prices to £5,000 – and the red fox jackets from £1,250 to £850 – or from £6,200 to £4,200 after inflation has done its work.

By this time, furniture was the big thing, with fitted bedroom suites seen as the height of modern sophistication. ELS in Bilston invited customers to mark the dawn of the aspirational 80s by purchasing a 7ft wide “bedroom fitment” – advertising speak for wardrobe? – for £134, and a six-seater velour corner sofa would have set you back £395.

Rackhams advert from December 1979

Rackhams, which had branches in Shrewsbury and Wolverhampton, adopted a functional approach to its advertising, with a floor-by-floor guide to what was on offer, with everything from half-price vests to 13in Panasonic TV for £249.

And new year wouldn’t be new year without the Allied Carpets New Year Sale. Then again, spring wouldn’t be spring without the Allied Carpets spring sale, and summer wouldn’t be summer etc.

January wouldn't be January without the Allied Carpets January sale

And the rug retailer didn’t disappoint as it geared up for 1980, with wool blend shag piles at £5.99 a square yard.

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

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