Saturday, 3 January 2009

Woolworths Liquidation: Endgame

Friday. The rats have left, the ship is bare. What remains is shelving, for which bids are invited. On it, a solitary copy of (appropriately enough) Mass Effect (£22.97). No, prices weren’t cheap; all sweets had gone, and near the front of the store huddled items from the far back of the stockroom, like a Millennium Celebration Banner (Complete with “2000” in figures, thus useless even to those preparing for the next one). Yours for £1·99. Only in Woolworths. Only Today.

12 comments:

The Exegesis Fairy said...

I went and bought a couple of fountain pens and ink (and a Doctor Who) album a couple of days after Christmas at my local Woolies. 'Tis sad. Not to mention unexpected. But then someone in the know tells me that at least half a dozen high street chains are teetering on the brink, so the next few months are going to be interesting indeed.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

it's a sad and interesting old one, indeed. I suspect Woolies had run out of options, given the competition of Tescos et al, and ended up as a kind of second or third best to everyone else, except for sweets, seasonal goods, and children's clothes. I've never found them that good for DVD's and the like, surprisingly since they distributed most of them for everyone else. And there's a challenge in the story for all generalist shops like W H Smith, to try and keep focussed.

All this and the credit crunch.

All this, including the credit crunch, and I suspect the big trend online and away from the high street anyway, compounded by some over-ambitious (greedy?) business plans supporting new shopping malls. It'll be interesting to see where Eden Wycombe is by this ime next year — almost London rents could really compound failure. 1 shop there has gone under in less than 6 months.

I suspect this is a sign of tectonic change out there; traumatic stuff if we really are a nation of shopkeepers... maybe not for much longer. Someone was suggesting the other day that soon the only shops left would be Tesco's, the underwear department of M&S and Amazon!

Anonymous said...

Would it comfort you to know that Woolworths is still doing great strokes in Australia and New Zealand? The name, at least, is going on.

Otepoti

Jocelyn E. Chappell said...

(I was going to blog this but it seems to fit better here at this time. I hope you don't mind.)

I see tremendous parallels between on the one hand the recent (and forthcoming second wave of) credit crunch following financial loose thinking over the last many several decades and on the other hand the with our squandering of energy and climate resources over a similar period.

I've been reading The Transition Handbook (Rob Hopkins) and a few other bits and pieces over Christmas, and as a result I have just the tiniest of inklings....

1) Sooner or later the economics of energy will favour again local shoppers, local shops and local (non-carbon) produce (and there isn't much of that at the moment). Perhaps it will favour also the nation of shopkeepers even.

2) The present globalisation and on-line shopping trends are just that, present trends - albeit very well entrenched.

3) The cost of on-line shopping should scale (down) making it feasible for local producers and suppliers to compete again (on an energy levelled field) with the multinational supermarkets.

4) We won't always be buying as many luxury DVDs and fountain pens and whatever takes their place as we do now.

5)People will stop buying things to throw away. Who knows, one day if we still have washing machines they may last longer than the car we would probably never replace.

This isn't meant to sound scary. Perhaps we will discover more and more there is more of valued in each other than our things.

Also there are ways to develop communities with resilience to approach these future economics -- and that sounds like fun to me. The Transition Culture and Transition Towns is one set of grass roots initiatives that in the last couple of years has demonstrated success across more than a hundred UK towns.

Aylesbury Transition initiative as it happens is more recent, fledgling even, and headed up by Tony Collins (Licensed Lay Minister at Holy Trinity). We have some early interest in the District Council and are hoping to make a presentation at Deanery Synod in February. Your prayers are hugely valued as always.

UKZoe said...

My cousin is (sorry, WAS) a manager at a Big W woolworths store and her mother had worked for the company for 25 years.
Both of their stores were ones closing LAST WEEK, but cousin got to the point where local entrepreneur came in and offered her £100 for everything that was left and she took it, so that her staff had an extra day to take their time over the clear out, paperwork, dismantling etc!

Think a few budding car booters missed out on some opportunities there.

Whereas out store was still fairly full this morning with what seemed to be 3 or 4 hundred sweatshirts for 2 to 8 year olds, a load of kitchen storage jars, posters and not a lot else.

Jonathan Robinson said...

My local store was a sorry site (which I filmed in today). Sad to see it closed for good.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Glad to know the name is flourishing down under. There is a bit of a "where were you when Kennedy dies" feel about this slow death. Not only a nation of shopkeepers, but a nation of nostalgic shopkeepers. I'm immensely sorry for the human beings caught up in this. My friend and colleague Alistair France wrote movingly on his blog about times significant things had happened to him in Wolworths Sheffield, where he had a job when younger. There's a shade of that for most of us, I think, though not so intense. People may well say "If it was that much part of your life, why didn't you go shopping there?" but I suspect that puts its finger on another rather English phenomenon, familiar to many in the Church of England.

Jocelyn, I'm really grateful for the Transition links. I've been carrying a couple of relevant transition blog links in my right hand column for a while now. I;'m not saying this is the way everything has to go, but at least it's an intelligent attempt to be creative about where it's going. In food and shopping, we may have to go more local than we know, and I wonder if the collapse of some homogenised high street presences may not leave ruins to be inhabited by different kinds of more local business...

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

PS - J — I'd like to get more plugged into what Tony and you are doing about Aylesbury — do keep me actively posted!

Jocelyn E. Chappell said...

...hey, that's great. I will do as you ask. I am sure Tony will be hugely pleased to hear. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Anyone know who the liquidators are? Bishop Alan you quoted "all that's left is the shelving for which bids are invited" well I need shelving. Any ideas? martins@cytanet.com.cy

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

I think Freshfields are doing the legal work and Deloitte's are administrators. Good one for a pub quiz sometime?

Anonymous said...

Woolworths makes me sick! They destroy suppliers lives by sending them broke to save a buck!

They destroy employees lives by working them so hard they get permanent injuries. They accuse them of being lazy because they are in pain. They destroy their reputations. They talk them into reinjuring themselves to save a buck. They ruined my life!!!

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