ABC Wednesday - X is for...

... Ex High Street names

On January 2nd this national institution will close its doors in Chippenham after 70 years of trading in the town. I joined the vultures crowds there yesterday to have a look round for the last time. The front of the shop still looks pretty full, but a quick walk to the back reveals lots of empty shelves. Even these fixtures and fittings are up for sale: 4 drawer filing cabinets are £25 and the store's safe (how ironic) is £150 - all arranged on one display stand (£20) as black and white photographs with the legend See the store manager for further details accompanying them. I bought a small book for gardening notes - the kind of thing I've always bought from there. The assistant at the till served me politely and with a smile, though it didn't reach her eyes.

A quick walk down the High Street revealed several more national names with the same demise. The estate agent arm of the Halifax bank closed in September and Roseby's (curtains) and The Officers Club (menswear) are in the process of doing so. Still the town centre continues to bustle, but will it do so in the New Year once the January sales are finished? 2009's destined to be a different place as far as Chippenham's concerned that's for sure.

As well as being my (contrived X!) offering for ABC Wednesday, this piece forms one of my own intermittent Changing Chippenham series. The previous post can be found here.


  1. It is a sad time indeed. Even we had a woolies here and next door is Adams which is soon to be an x too.

  2. Sorry to see so many establishments closing their doors. Its a sad statement on the condition of ouur world.

  3. Isn't it sad to see some of these old icons go? We haven't had a Woolworth's near here in ages, but I remember them fondly from my childhood.

  4. Maybe a contrived X but very appropriate; how sad it is to see such icons disappearing.

  5. A friend went into her local Woolworths for a last nostalgic look, and like you, she found they were selling off all the fixtures and fittings. One of the items was a fridge, which she guessed was from the staffroom. It was still covered with family photographs and pictures of staff parties. Sad.

  6. We had two Woolworths branches locally, one in Dorchester and one in Weymouth.

    I haven't been in the Dorchester one over the last few weeks but the closure of the Weymouth one seems to have had a totally different atmosphere from what is described in other towns. (At least, on the occasions I went in.)

    There was no music . . . and customers walkied around in almost silence. There was no rush, no grabbing, and, judging from overheard comments and the general demeanor of the other customers, people were buying things they needed but would no longer be able to access.

    Shopping in Weymouth has been weird this Christmas. Several shops have been without music lately and those which have, have had it on low. Even the Salvation Army band seems to have vacated the streets.

    Only once did I have to queue anywhere and, several times, I was the only customer in the shop.

    In contrast, Dorchester (Weymouth and Dorchester are only nine miles apart) has coninued to have a lively, bustly, Christmassy atmosphere.

    As I sat with a friend in a large chip shop cafe in Weymouth where we were the only customers and there was only one person serving instead of the usual three and there was no music (don't usually like music in shops but it does help to cover the silence) we wondered what causes such a difference between two, so closely neighbouring, towns.


  7. Hello VP I just want to wish you and your family a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year.

    Tomorrow we turn the page, a blank and unwritten page in our garden calender....oh I have such a high hopes for the garden 2009.
    It's so exciting, soon we can start with all our seeds and seedlings...again.

    xoxo and cheers/ Tyra

  8. VP, We went into our local Woolies in St Ives (Cambridgeshire Not Cornwall!) last week, it was really sad to see it in the process of dying. Apart from Waitrose at the other end of the high st and an old independent department store it was the only big shop in the town, it also had the best position on the high street.

    I hate to think what if anything we will get there next, poundland? or Tesco's spreading it tentacles futher into our daily life? I feel they are like arms dealers profiting on others misery.

    Enough of this maudling Gary, have a Happy New year and hopefully 2009 will be a good one.

  9. another year ends-this time with a great many familiar shops alongside. i can feel a great change coming into my life along with the spring winds. change is inevitable, but to some extent we can manage how change manifests, along with a willingness to along for the ride. may we all great 09 with smiles on our faces & hope in out hearts.

  10. Dear VP,

    I am sorry to see Woolworth's go... I know I shared this with you in your earlier post, but I have fond childhood memories of shopping and eating at the lunch counter.


  11. I typed in a long comment about Woolies that turned into a rant which I deleted! The upshot of it being that whilst it was sad to lose an icon and particularly for those losing their jobs, Woolies bought it on themselves by not upping their game in recent years. Certainly the Brighton stores were absolutely dismal with no reason to go in them.
    Not like they were in my childhood when Woolworth's was the first store I got lost in between the big wooden counters and my mother had to be called over the tannoy system to come and collect me!

  12. Oh dear. How can I feel so sentimental about a bastion of capitalism? But I am! Those days before the beginning of a new term, going to Woolies to but a new pencil case. My first self-bought handbag- what I now know to be a Chanel rip off but which seemed the height of chic at the time (ten bob!). The cafeteria. My mum getting her purse stolen on Christmas Eve. Ah, me...

  13. It is a very sad time for the employees of all these firms that are closing their doors.
    Happy New Year to you.

    Bear((( )))

  14. Hi VP!
    Happy new year to you!
    Happiest, actually...
    I think of you and your fun and friendship...
    So, Warm regards,
    And, a big wish for you and yours in 2009

  15. The end of an era. We nipped into Woolworths in Liverpool yesterday where my mother in law once was was employed demonstrating how to use a Yo-yo. Sad to see this branch and others in the last days of trading. What a big gap this will leave in many high streets and shopping precincts. Living in an area where there is above average unemployment, I remember many boarded up shops during the recession of the 80s and fear that this grim scenario will be repeating itself.

  16. I saw my first dead Woolies yesterday - such a sad start to the year.

    Still - from here things can only get better, right?

    Happy New Year VP!

  17. Hi everyone and Happy New Year - sad times indeed here which I felt needed to be recorded in some way.

    ABCers - I'll head on over to your blogs and comment there.

    Victoria - we very nearly bought one of the filing cabinets for our fledgling business. However the really good one was gone and the naff one left. Your friend's story about the fridge is most poignant.

    Lucy - when I went round I wondered what would happen if they sold all the CDs before the store closed. They made a compilation CD of favourite music apparently.

    Arabella - I know it's their fault, but it's still a shame. And Colleen whatever we feel about capitalism, it seems to have been such a focal point of our growing up. I bought my first record there for instance.


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