Who killed Woolworths?

 

There must be something special about Woolworths. At least that is what I am being told and, since I somehow managed to live through a childhood deprived of "pic'n'mix" and the likes, I can only guess what it is that turns the closure of a store chain into something of a national tragedy.

It is a busy Tuesday morning in Woolworths' Chatham branch and the shop's aisles are buzzing with customers in search of a Christmas bargain, with at least a dozen queuing at the tills, their arms heavy with sweets and toys.

Mothers with pushchairs are hurrying breathlessly past the shelves stocked with giant boxes of Cadbury and Toblerone to the faint tune of "Silent Night", past Christmas baubles, golden reindeer figures, huge stockings and big red signs announcing a "Christmas price crash".

Yet, it appears that, despite these eager shoppers, Woolworths itself is heading straight towards the crash. Shares plummeted to a record low of just 1.43p last Friday and since then there has been no doubt that Woolies is going down.

Right before Christmas, for the staff, the prospect of being made redundant certainly won't seem like one of those "perfect stocking fillers" that Woolworths tries to advertise so rigorously.

But amazingly enough, back in the Chatham branch, there is no fear, let alone despair, to be seen. But what does emerge is that many customers are already getting sentimental about Woolworths' impending downfall.

Louise Fitton's two shopping baskets are filled with family-size boxes of chocolate, sweets, and a reduced "Barbie Glamour Jet". The mother of a small boy and girl says that she has always been satisfied with the shop's offers, and stresses that she would be "deeply ashamed if Woolworths was to close down". To her, the store has been a characteristic feature on the high street ever since she can remember, a place where one could always buy "bits and pieces".

However, selling bits and pieces to a few customers proves to be not enough to keep a chain with some 800 branches across the UK alive in an age of ever more fierce competition on the high street.

Some people might occasionally pop in to buy a CD or some sweets, but the cheap deals that Woolworths became famous for over its almost centenarian history - ironic as it may seem, the store chain faces its end only months before the big celebration - don't seem to do it anymore for increasingly demanding customers.

 Maybe there is some sort of tragedy in this indeed.

Comments

Are we supposed to post our piece as a blog? A few people have and I'm not sure. :S

By KathrynCain

but I guess it doesn't really matter?

otherwise it would be a perfect occasion for our favourite quote: "you're wrong!" 

By laurahartmann

Or print it out. Dunno about blogs.

By johnsaunders

I actually laughed out loud at that. haha

By robhayes

The book Real England by Paul Kingsnorth is good on high street closures/communities/farmers etc. The death of a chain pales in comparison to a single gallery, bakery or grocers that has to shut in my opinion.

He talks of the idea of 'clone towns' where homogeneity rules all over britain.

The least 'clone'-y (he puts it better than that) town is Sherringham, if I remember correctly.

By johnsaunders

..it's really sad if a small family business that has been in your street/area for ages has to close down (how I hate those discount-/self-service bakers!) where you went ever since your Mum took you and the staff know you.

And I also think it's quite terrible that almost every high street (I'm referring to Germany now, since I haven't seen so many here until now:) looks the same, it's the same tacky shops everywhere.

By laurahartmann

how great is it when you find an individual shop that you've never seen before? As there are less and less of course, it becomes harder to do but they're out there.

Even the galleries in Cornwall selling art for the wealthy holiday-ers, undoubtedly owned by individuals some of them, take on a corporate sheen when they're surrounded by surf-shops that are only there to capitalize on the daddy's money up for grabs.

The little paintings, row upon row, of empty beaches which are seldom to be found, bathed in a light somewhat paler than you might hope for, just make me sad about those towns.

Rock-pooling, though, what fun! Climbing cliffs: mabye a little bit too far. I gashed up my hand last summer slipping down a face of aproximately 50 degrees (I didn't stop to take measurements). They were only shallow but it brought home to me how it's silly to get enthusiastic about climbing without ropes when it rained yesterday. Oh well.

By johnsaunders