Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Demise of Woolworths

As the Woolworths brand continues apace here in Australia with plans to buy consumer entertainment group JB HiFi, having already cornered a big part of the grocery, liquor, petrol, hotel and pub markets in the great Australian duopoly/monopoly theory of capitalism, UK Woolies is on the chopping block for the cost of a modest bag of pick 'n mix.

Woolworths was always a very familiar place during my childhood and many Scottish High Streets can be marked in my memory by Woolworths as an anchor tenant. They have been doing business in the UK for almost a century. It will be a devastating black hole and a very visible reminder of a business strategy gone bad.

'I quite like Woolies, but basically it's all just a bit crap isn't it?' says one browser, Steve, as he leaves empty-handed. A woman is buying plastic coathangers; another is discussing Advent calendars with a member of staff; and a boy is briefly mesmerised by a musical Santa which dances and plays the saxophone, before his mother drags him away. At the till, two young women lean with their chins in their hands, chatting to the security guard.

It wasn't always like this: Woolies once had a shop on every British high street and a special place in the hearts of millions of bargain-hungry shoppers. It was famous for selling anything from sixpenny toys to brown paper and string.

My grandmother used to love to browse around Woolworths for a bargain. I don't get the feeling that this generation values that shopping experience quite as much. Rather, a more focused offer is important.

Sad all the same.

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Anonymous said...

Apparently the whole business is available for the princely sum of £1.00. Although being Woolies perhaps 99p would have been more appropriate.

Colin Campbell said...

You might have to take on a little debt, some property and a bunch of crappy inventory to get that deal. I think I would rather buy some liquorice allsorts.

♥ Braja said...

Ahh, all childhood things must end. Woolies is one of them. Basically ,childhood legend aside, they're crap :)

Suzer said...

You sound like my mother. When she hears me talk of Woolies here in Oz, she laments on it's demise in the US. I think she still misses the soda fountain and ice cream.

Anonymous said...

Think they have vanished from here as well. Although they were shop lifted rather than sold off at a bargain basement sale

James Higham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JW said...

The real problem with Woolies here in the UK is that the bargains are best found in the supermarkets now; and the coat-hangers and so on can be found in the hoard of budget bazaars that now lurk just off every high street.

I'm typical I guess. I'll miss the ol' place but in recent years I've either bought reduced-price DVDs that they couldn't shift at their proper price or the occasional tiny purchase worth a couple of pounds - and a lot less profit.

All things must pass ...

Anonymous said...

It is sad. Woolies was a part of my childhood. Looks as if I have missed out on visiting MFI on my next trip to UK as that too has gone under. It seemed to me as if it was like a super Bunnings. I am mostly sad for the thousands who have lost their jobs of course.

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