Get all your news in one place
100’s of premium titles. One news app. Zero ads. Just $10 per month.
Nottingham Post

Celebration at Nottingham Victoria Centre Boots where employee told 'Me duck, you'll not go wrong there'

A lot has changed over the decades at Nottingham's Victoria Centre, with owners coming and going and a huge number of different stores and stalls opening to shoppers. One of the constants during much of that time though has been its huge Boots store, which has celebrated its 50th anniversary today, May 12.

For Marie Booth, Deputy Manager, joining Boots as a make-up artist girl on the No.7 counter was a childhood dream come true. She recalls that Boots was seen as a job for life and she started as a trainee on a scheme at the Broadmarsh store in 1984.

"I used to come into Boots with my granny and my mother. I would see the girls working on the make-up counters and I thought that's what I want to do. My ambition was to get on a counter job and I was so proud when they offered me a job on No.7," Marie said.

Read more: Fear of 'the unthinkable' as popular Nottingham shop could close after 40 years as owners issue plea

General manager Sally Francis pictured at Boots in Nottingham city centre, as the store celebrates 50 years since opening. Boots at Victoria Centre in Nottingham city centre, celebrates 50 year since opening. (Joseph Raynor/ Nottingham Post)

"I was a shy person and it gave me the confidence I needed. My grannie used to say, 'me duck, you'll not go wrong working for Boots.' God bless her, she was right."

Marie explained that her Boots colleagues have become a second family and when her father passed away, they were there to support her. She feels proud to be part of such a successful Nottingham brand.

"You feel really cared for here and we've all been through things in our careers here. I lost my dad suddenly and these guys were there for me to help me get through that which has made me want to stay. I can't imagine doing anything else after 37 years as Boots is Nottingham," she said.

Jean Jones started on the shop floor and is now healthcare trained. Originally from Somerset, Nottingham has become home for her and her husband. The friendships she has made over the years at the store with customers and colleagues alike have meant the world to her.

She said: "We get a lot of people coming in who have left or retired and you still speak to them. The friendships over the years have meant a lot to us. I started here on a part-time job while my children were at school in 1986. I've worked in every department since I arrived and I still enjoy coming to work in the mornings."

The departments and items that Boots sell have changed dramatically over the years. The women recalled that Boots once sold pet food, wheelbarrows, game consoles, garden supplies and even had a record section in the corner of the store.

A general view inside Boots at Victoria Centre in Nottingham city centre. (Joseph Raynor/ Nottingham Post)

Daxa Kotecha started in the music and electronics department in 1987. One of the biggest changes that the staff has faced is the threat posed by Covid and the fast adjustments they needed to make to stay safe during restrictions.

"I've been here over 35 and have worked with some great colleagues. I used to work in Leicester before I joined the music and video department here, which I loved," she recalled.

"It's very difficult now because of Covid but you made it as easy as you could for customers. We had customers who came in shaking as they hadn't been out in a while. They needed your support and help but it was a great support for us, too. Customers sometimes come in with tears in their eyes from bad memories and they share their experiences with us."

Marie added: "There was a loneliness among the customers. Some of us worked and others were furloughed but you felt really safe. Those were humbling memories to see the customers come back in to talk to us. It's lovely to see things getting back to normal and the buzz is back in town again."

The store is very central for all the big performance hubs such as Theatre Royal and Playhouse which all have performers, make-up artists and cast members who stock up at the store.

"We had actress Dot Cotton pop in some years ago then there was Joan Collins, Sophie Lauren, Lady Diana's parents, Susan Dando, snooker player, Dennis Taylor and Thora Hird to name a few," She said.

The interior of Boots Victoria Centre in 1972 (Boots Archive)

"They are just regular shoppers when they come in here and you just get used to it."

Julie Barrett, from Hucknall, recalls serving actor Shane Ritchie. "I served Shane Ritchie recently and he had a baseball cap over his eyes. He asked me where the door was and I thought, I know that face from somewhere so I asked him if he was Shane Ritchie and he said yes. There was no one around with a phone to take a picture but he was absolutely lovely. "

Julie will have been working for Boots for 30 years in June after she started part-time in 1992. She feels the biggest change to Boots, aside from Covid, has been the switch to online shopping.

"Online shopping has a lot of the business now. There are a lot of things we just don't sell anymore like gardening equipment of electrical things. We had a mini lab at one point to process film. Despite the move online, we are sold out of disposable cameras as the students keep buying them. Its novelty as they love passing around cameras on nights out and putting the photos into physical folders," she said.

Julie feels that over the years her fellow staff members have become like family to her. It's this that has kept her at the store for so many years.

"My best memories are with the colleagues that I've worked with for years as we share all of our problems. It's like one big extended family."