THERE was an end of an era at
Nantwich this Christmas. Woolworths,
Swine Market, was one of the 800 or so stores in the national chain which
closed after the store went into administration.
Around 200 closed
their doors for the last time on Saturday, December 27. The
remaining 600 or so still had a January 5 closing date, but with
hopes that a buyer might still be found.
With discounts of "up to 50%" promised,
the stores nationwide tried to sell as many goods as they could as the end
loomed. Some shoppers complained that the cuts were really 10% or
20% a best, according to national television. And they were having a
go at the luckless staff who might have expected a little sympathy
at the prospect of being jobless in the very near future. But that's
the "me, me" generation for you.
I am not aware of
this happening in Nantwich - nor can I say that it didn't. In fact,
when I popped in the other day, the staff were surprisingly cheerful
in the circumstances. This was despite the fact that the store
presented a gloomy picture with rows of empty shelves and the
remaining stock being consolidated on to fewer and fewer shelves.
Normally the shelves would
have been filled with replacement stock more or less straight away.
But now there were no more deliveries due and it really was a case
of "when it's gone, it's gone."
The Swine Market premises are quite
large, for a Nantwich store, and the question now will be who would
want to take the building over. Of course, Swine Market, is part of
a consultation of local people about how the
Snow Hill area should
be developed. One idea put forward was that Beam Street should be
extended in a straight line instead of undertaking a dog-leg into
High Street. But, if that ever happened it would take out Boots the
Chemist (a smaller shop than Woolworth's) and so would not be a neat
solution killing two birds with one stone.
There has always been a
Woolworth's store in Nantwich in my life time, although when I first
knew it, it occupied a prime position in The Square (now M&Co, a
branch of the clothing chain) in
slightly smaller premises. I have been able to push the date when
there was definitely a shop in Nantwich back to 1930 thanks to
someone who, like me, always remembers there being a Woolworth's in
Of course, it would have
been called a shop rather than a store in those days. Well, it was
called "WooIies", of course. And still is. I remember that there
were wooden counters down each side wall - set a few feet from the
wall so that staff could stand behind them to serve customers - and a central island of
more counters with staff in the middle.
At the end,
the store, like most others, was self-service with goods being put
into baskets before being taken to a check-out area near to the
front doors. Apart from these areas there are no counters with staff
standing behind them. All stock was displayed on row after row of
I cannot remember
whether the staff in the premises on the Square took your money and
gave you any change that was due, or just handed you the items you
wished to buy. Then again, I can't remember a cash counter, so it must
have been pay as you bought.
An empty shop always casts
gloom on an area - an empty store will be that much worse.
As many people will know, Woolworth's is an import from
America, an idea of Franklin Winfield Woolworth (1852-1919). His
middle name was a store brand for a time.