{18/12/2012}   I miss Woolworths

In early January 2009, almost four years ago, Woolworths stores closed forever, leaving just the internet business.  Believe it or not, I often wonder where to buy certain things from and wish there were still Woolies stores to go to because they’d have sold what I wanted.  A lot of people I know at the time said they weren’t surprised as they didn’t really go to Woolies much.  I guess I went there quite a lot because for two years I lived in walking distance of a store, in Lee, for six months I changed buses outside Woolworths in Brixton and, well, there was one in every town.

I often wonder how they’d have done now that people are more keen to shop in cheaper shops.  I recently wanted some fabric dye and could only think of Woolworths to get it.  Yesterday, in pursuit of stocking fillers, Woolworths would have had the best selection.  I also drew a temporary blank as to where to get some insoles, but finally thought to go to a shoe repair shop.  I suppose part of their problem was that they sold a bit of a lot of things and sometimes it was better to get the variety.  For example, if you wanted a CD you probably wouldn’t have gone straight to Woolworths, rather going to a designated music shop, such as HMV.  Likewise, for DIY stuff there’s often a Robert Dyas or equivalent on the High Street.  Stationery?  WH Smith or Ryman.  Plus, the more I think about the larger supermarkets I go to, the more I realise they sell pretty much everything Woolworths sold.  Aren’t we lazy?  We now seem increasingly satisfied to buy everything in one shop: computer; curtains; food; stationery; TV; frying pan; mobile phone; Christmas decorations.

I used to buy a lot in Woolworths, and I particular enjoyed the odd Pick ‘n’ Mix bag, though I was somewhat put off when people kept telling me stories about the hygiene issues and horrible things children (and probably adults) do to some sweets (I had a friend who worked in a cinema with Pick ‘n’ Mix and he refused to ever eat them based on what he used to see!).

Another sad thing about the demise of Woolies is that that was one of the early victims of the recession and I had no idea how many other familiar stores would go, for example The Pier, Habitat, Comet, Past Times.  Now our High Streets seem to be full of empty shops and temporary shops and a lot more bargain, 99p or £1, shops.  There really have been about three or four times I’ve thought about something I’ve wanted to buy in the run-up to Christmas this year and have thought first of Woolworths.  I don’t think to go to supermarkets, I usually end up going to a few shops, but if I’m in a supermarket and in the mood to wander up and down most aisles, I do get a lot of non-traditional supermarket things there.

I guess the way we shop has changed a lot in the past four years and there will no doubt be more change ahead but if I could bring back one shop, it would without doubt be Woolworths.


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