Monday, 10 March 2014

Dead or Wounded.

If there's a gaping hole in your High Street - between the opticians and the betting shop, and so gaping that only a blind man could fail to see it - the chances are that this vacant lot was once occupied by Woolworth, or another commercial failure of the retail world.

Flashback to 2009, when the game was finally up for this High Street giant, and another icon from British retail history passed away.

It was a sad time for generations of Saturday-afternoon shoppers, who just couldn't resist a visit to their local store to see how much a new frying pan would cost, to get hold of the latest Dire Straits cassette (yes, cassette - not CD) or to fill a little plastic bag with half a pound (yes, half a pound - not half a kilo) of pic 'n' mix sweets. Then there were the toys and games, the latest videos (not DVD's) and...

...on the list goes. This WAS my Woolworth in the early 1980s: a shop run by people who had no clear idea on what to and what not to sell, but somehow managed to attract millions of shoppers. It is therefore obvious, that with such a shambolic strategy, that this once almighty beast died a slow and lingering death. Woolworth was GOOD, but now it's GONE!

And gone too is Clinton Cards - gone to the great greetings card retailer in the sky, leaving another hole in the High Street, to be filled by some awful coffee shop or French-style bakery. And also departed, and sorely missed, is Comet - gone to the great electrical appliance retailer in the sky, only to be replaced by an out-of-town Mexican restaurant, where the first course is free and children under five pay half price.

And what of Marks and Spencer? Well, this monster is still alive and kicking - but not as it used to in the 1980s. No, this monster is just hobbling along - wounded by the fact that it rested too long on its laurels, and because it took its eye off the ball. I can't see M&S dying, but who would have thought that Woolworth would go and Poundland would get stronger?

Anyway, if you miss Woolworth, and like to take a trip down Memory Lane every now and then, why not check out the unseasonal video at the beginning of this post, and take yourself back to a time when the High Street was FUN!

Luke Ryman is the author of "The Londoners" trilogy and the "But Bloody France!" series of ebooks.

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