So Woolworth’s has finally gone into administration. Another Great British High Street institution bites the dust.
It’s been written about (far more expertly and feelingly) by other bloggers but I feel the need to add my twopenneth-worth to the debate (as opposed to adding it to the purchase fund).
I shall miss Woolies greatly even though I hardly ever shopped there (yes, blame me, Mr Woolworth, for your lack of sales). The Woolworth shop sign has been a pillar of the Leamington town centre for generations (Leamington is full of dodgy architecture) and was my gran’s favourite shop.
I shall miss its deep red Ariel-like typeface. It’s creaky hand-winched escalator (Leamington store only). The gaudy aisles. The Pick ‘n’ Mix. The unhelpfully spotty sales assistants. Especially the one with spiky hair (like Rod Stewart) who would effetely stand to one side and chew his fingernails rather than risk breaking them by ringing up a single sale on the antiquated cash register (blame him, Mr Woolworth, for your lack of sales).
I loved Woolworth’s far more as a kid. And it was never “Woolworth” – singular (as is correct) but always “Woolworth’s” which for some reason now strikes me a strange. The school holidays were always made complete by a trip to Woolworth – we’d inevitably have Christmas money or Easter money to spend and after Toytown, Woolworth was the store to spend it in. For me this usually entailed purchasing an A4 writing pad (narrow, ruled feint, margin) and some Woolworth felt tip pens with which I would construct bizarre stories inspired by my fevered pre-adolescent brain.
As I got older I fell out of love with Woolworth. I became a store snob and, may the gods of the High Street forgive me, Woolworth just seemed a little down-at-heel. A glorified pound shop almost. A white elephant store. It lost its identity. You were never quite sure what exactly Woolworth was trying to be. A little bit of everything it seemed but never anything definite.
In later years I merely used Woolworth as a short cut to get from the main shopping road (The Parade) to the road behind it that runs parallel. This seems an awful thing to admit to... like going into a pub merely to use the toilet without buying a single drink. But about 12 months ago they reorganized the store and sealed off the back exits (except for cases of fire) thus condemning this glorious cut-through to the stuff of myth and legend. Now I use the local branch of the HSBC instead but it’s not quite the same.
My most recent visit to Woolworth – a couple of weeks ago – was motivated by mercenary tendencies. On its last legs, blood oozing from its severed jugular, Woolworth were offering a 3 for 2 deal on all their toys. Christmas was (and is) getting nearer. They have a fine selection of Lego which I love. It seemed too good an offer to miss. So I made sure I didn’t. I pounced like a screaming hyena and got myself some bargains. I blew a lot of money that day – possibly gave Woolworth a temporary stay of execution (thank me later, Mr Woolworth, when I toss you my loose change) – but ultimately I came away in the knowledge that my selective purchases had saved me a good £60 and therefore cost Woolworth the same.
I did, I admit, feel a little cruel. Like I’d just snuck round the back and looted a burning building while the fire brigade were busy at the front. But hey, they invited me in. They were ripped and torn and desperate. They were selling the shirt off their back and throwing in the underpants for free.
It was sad to see.
Sometimes a bullet through the crust is the kindest thing.
At ease, soldier. At ease.