A Letter from Nantwich

December 2008                                                                                                   In new hands

Misery in store at Christmas

Doom and gloom at a long-established Nantwich store

THERE was an end of an era at Nantwich this Christmas. Woolworths, in 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 Nantwich.

   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 shelf units.

    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.

 

PREMISES BACK IN BUSINESS

DISCOUNT store B&M has taken over the Woolworth's store, re-opening the Swine Market premises on Wednesday, February 4. The firm, which sells toys, electrical and household goods, food and drink, health and beauty items, garden equipment and home furnishings, has 89 stores throughout the U.K.  

   I understand that the Woolworth's manager is employed as the B&M manager and that many of the former staff have been taken on, too.

The new B&M store on its first day of trading.

Two more views of the store

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