Sunday, 21 December 2008

The Demise of Woolworths

I've steered clear of the subject until now but, in the heat of the pre-Christmas shopping rush, I've succumbed to pressure to add my voice to the increasingly-clamouring chorus of discontent. I am not nostalgic. I have no memories of wooden floors, and barrels piled with goods for sale. My Woolworths was a quasi-department store with make-up and jewellery posited at the entrance.

Oh, the hours I spent as a gel, agonizing over sparkly eyeshadow and spangly hair barrettes. Over the years, my occasions of going into Woolworths declined and declined, until my forays were reduced to fewer than five per twelvemonth. I only went when all my efforts to find a vital item elsewhere had failed - and even then, I sometimes came out empty-handed. Which is why I'm not exactly screaming and tearing my now barrette-free hair out at the demise of the empire.

In these times of niche-retailing, Woolworths had quite simply lost the plot. Everything it sold; sweets, toys, household goods, CDs and DVDs, stationery, electricals and so on, could be gotten more easily/cheaply/ comfortably elsewhere. Woolies couldn't win on charm and atmosphere. Crude strip-lighting and plastic fixtures will never entice anyone. And forget the bargain-basement ethos they tried to engender. This was lost in the plethora of 'poundsaver' stores that now grace the high street.

There is talk of 'saving' Woolies but dosing a dying patient with aspirin never did work. If it is to survive, Woolies will simply have to decide what sort of animal it wants to be. It will have to log in to some niche market, hitherto untapped, and flog it for all it is worth. And how easy is that?

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