Woolies gloom seizes High Sts

What looks like the end of the line for Woolworth’s as we know it brings home to us what the recession really means. As Peston puts it:

For the millions of us who have grown up on Woolworth pic’n’mix and bought Power Ranger toys from them for our kids, the collapse of the store chain will bring great sadness. And of course the pain and anxiety is much greater for the 25,000 employed in its stores.

The shock waves may start a price war in the run-up to Christmas and afterwards, the collapse of other rickety High St brands. Woolworth’s may survive in some form but the overall news is bleak.

The administrator is likely to close about a third of Woolworths’ worst-performing stores in the coming weeks, but all the stores are expected to open as usual tomorrow. Deloitte will probably run profit-making EUK as before. The accountant will look for a buyer for EUK and the remaining high street stores, who will probably want to keep the Woolworths name.

Are Woollies the latest victim of banks that should be in rescue not closure mode after the billions being poured into them, or is that just sentimental nonsense, throwing good money after bad ?

  • Ann

    Theres not much room for sentiment now for retailers on the high street. Everybody you talk to is talking about the scarcity of money.

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    Farewell to the Pick n’ Mix!

    Poor old Woolies!

  • Brian,

    With all due respect, you are talking sentimental nonsense. Woolworth may have been around for 99 years but their business model has been out of date for decades as shopper trends have moved on. Whilst I am sorry that people are going to lose their jobs the reality is that an uncompetitive monolith has no right to exist. I know in the State sector this may seem heresy, and no doubt NI politicians will weep and wail for maximum PR benefit concerning this, commerce is red in tooth and claw. Woolworths, like MFI, needs to exit so new business may enter and this may be one of the curious benefits of the new economic climate. Banks will make their own decisions as to who and why they lend cash, unless one believes in the all powerful State.

  • The Raven

    David, I don’t think any of us believe that, but taking it to it’s nth degree, are we not right to expect some leniency to those who are in difficulties with their mortgage, after such a huge helping hand was thrown to banks? Banks, which as you rightly note will make their own decisions as to whom they lend cash.

    Which is part of the reason they are in the state they are in, at the moment, is it not?

    Ah, the circle of life. I feel a song coming on…

  • cynic

    Woolworths has been a basketcase for years with the only value in the stores (for use in selling something else). We may all be nostalgic but almost all of us stopped shopping there years ago.

  • Continental Drifter

    It’s all right, Kieran McCarthy will bail them out…


  • JokerN

    Woolworth’s core business moved on and it looks as if they didnt.
    Alot of news reports have mentioned pic’n’mix – when was the last time anyone bought one? Much easier (and cheaper) to buy several bags of sweets at Tesco.
    Chart singles used to bring alot of punters in as they were the biggest stockist on the high st. Downloads have done for that.

    The sad thing is that I visited one recently and bought a few DVDs. They were cheaper than supermarkets and HMV and had better offers on. Just a pity there’s little other reason to venture in.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I hate it when David Vance is right. There must be a clear distinction between otherwise successful businesses which are in trouble because of problems in the banking and insurance businesses, and businesses which are complete rubbish and existed only because they were propped up by the banks. Woolworth’s falls into the latter category; it sells nothing of particular use to anyone. Sadly, if no-one can be found to buy it and make it work, it will have to be allowed to fall.

    It really annoys me when people get all pious about the passing of old, long-established businesses – when it usually turns out that they did not shop there themselves. The reason why these businesses fail is because, for some reason or another, nobody wants to buy the products or services that they offer. The government cannot become involved to second-guess the tastes and preferences of consumers. I’m reminded of the union workers and lobbyists in Ireland in the 1950s who visited Todd Andrews at CIE to ask him not to close low-traffic railway lines. At the end of the meeting, Andrews asked for their rail tickets so that he could get them a courtesy free pass. It turned out that they had all travelled up by car.

    That said, while the government cannot step in to rescue collapsing businesses (the major banks are a special case, though), clearly assistance must be provided to support redundant workers to help them find employment elsewhere.