Ode to Woolworths
High Street Favourite
Is this the end of an era?
Woolworths (affectionately known as "Woolies") was first founded in the United States in 1878, and quickly became multi-national.
While the last US Woolworths stores closed in the 1980s, here in the UK, up until now we have been lucky enough to still have many Woolworths outlets. However, with increased competition in many of its markets and the current financial crisis, its future looks very uncertain.
Woolworths has been a favourite shop for me since I was very young. Admittedly, the reason why I liked it there as a child was because they sold really good sweets (candy) and had a "pick and mix" section, which was quite revolutionary in those days!
By the time I was a teenager I was no longer so keen on sweets, but I still loved Woolworths as they had a great music section, which had better deals than any music shop. That's the beauty of Woolworths, they sell so many different types of products that there is something for everyone. It's a shop that you can really grow up with, and use your entire life!
Now that I'm an adult and a mother, I still love the shop and when I go there with my daughter it's a treat for both of us. She loves spending time looking at all the toys, which are sold at competitive prices, and I'm happy to buy toys there because I know from experience that they're going to be of a really good quality.
They are also the best place to go for kids' dressing-up clothes. They stock classic styles, such as princess/fairy tale dresses and cowboy costumes, which are always popular, as well as characters from the most popular current television shows. So if your child has a fancy dress party to go to, or they just fancy being a pirate or donning pink hair and becoming Stephanie from Lazytown - just for the sheer fun of it - this is the place to come!
Woolworths also have a very impressive kids' clothing range called Ladybird, which caters for all children, from newborn to aged 16. The clothes are just lovely; great quality and once again, very competitively priced. There are many other reason to like this shop.
They still have their sweets section (with the legendary pick and mix!); now there is a big range of confectionery, from the cheaper sweets that used to appeal to me as a child to a large choice of quite luxurious chocolates, which are perfect for gifts.
The section that is now most useful to me (as it was to my mother when I was young) is the home-ware section. Woolworths has always been the best place to buy just about anything you need for your home; cleaning items, saucepans, wooden spoons, washing lines, crockery sets. They have it all.
Because they sell practically everything you can think of and they are competitively priced, as you can imagine, Woolworths is very popular at Christmas time. It's perfect for Christmas shopping, and it's always a real joy to visit the shop when it's all decked out with festive colours, and full of familiar seasonal products like Christmas chocolate selection boxes. It's at this time of year that Woolworths really comes alive and reminds me of my childhood. It will be strange and rather sad going there this Christmas, seeing it looking all happy and cheery, yet knowing that this might be its last year.
The Woolworths Group has been struggling for a while now. It's been facing tough competition in many of its markets as supermarkets have diversified to produce many of its key products. It has also been affected by the growth of internet shopping and new technologies such as digital TV and music downloads, which reduce the need for people to buy products such as cds and dvds. And the financial crisis has been the final nail in its coffin.
Unbelievably, Woolworths may be sold for just £1 (although this deal doesn't sound nearly as attractive when you consider that it includes around £300m worth of debts!) This potential deal (with the Hilco Group) has caused several other serious bidders to surface. Depending on who buys it, it's uncertain whether Woolworths will continue in the form that we all know and love (yeah!), or become something completely different (boo!).
Although American in origin, because Woolworths has been a much-loved member of our high streets for such a long time, it is thought of as a national institution, and if it doesn't survive it will be sorely missed. And so, along with much of the UK, I hope and pray for a Christmas miracle for this ailing store.
UPDATE: Sadly, all of the UK Woolworths branches have now closed, and are all boarded up like so many other shops here. However, they will shortly be relaunching online, (which is definitely better than nothing!)
UPDATE 2: Woolworths has now relaunched online! To see the online version of Woolworths and shop to your heart's content see www.woolworths.co.uk.