I’ve never been one to anthropomorphise business entities, so I don’t tend to get too upset when a major High Street retailer goes out of business. Sure, I’ll always sympathise with the regular people who end up losing their jobs on account of other peoples’ errors of judgment and catastrophic SNAFUs, but I don’t feel any great sense of personal loss when a well known retail outlet shuts its doors and goes to Jesus. When Ratners went bust, Bejams bit the dust and Rumbelows took its final dirt nap I didn’t wear a black armband, close the curtains or shed any tears.
Until today, that is. While walking through Cotteridge in Birmingham I saw my first dead Woolworths store. The place was gutted, the shutters were down and a rather pathetic handwritten sign declared that the shop’s safe and a few fittings and fixtures were still available for purchase. As I read the sign, I felt my default setting of disregard be thrown into disarray.
I felt rather sad.
Woolworths, you see, was the place where I bought my first 7″ single. The record – for the record – was Cool For Cats by the criminally underrated Squeeze and I bought it with my pocket money from the bargain bin at the Hawthorn Road branch of Woolies in 1979. For most of my childhood, the Hawthorn Road branch of Woolies was the only place I bought records from. Long before I discovered places like Virgin or HMV – or independent outlets like Swordfish, Tempest and the late Frank’s Wild Records – Woolies was my local record store.
I bet it was for lots of other people, too