From BHS to Woolworths and Our Price to Blockbuster, sometimes it’s hard to believe such big names are no longer on our high streets
Once a common sight on high streets up and down the country, scores of big-name retailers including British Home Stores and Woolworths are sadly now just a memory.
The Great British high street has seen plenty of change over the years, with many retailers consigned to the history books. From Virgin Megastore to Toys R Us, C&A to Dixons, the list of what we’ve lost is growing all the time. Wilko became the latest headline-grabbing big-hitter to enter into administration, with many stores set to be transformed into Poundland and B&M branches.
It’s a brutally tough time for Britain’s retail sector, with more shops shutting down in 2022 than at any other point in the past five years. Almost 50 stores closed for good every day last year – culling 151,474 jobs in the process, says the Centre for Retail Research (CRR).
The advent of internet shopping is helping to slowly dismantle our traditional bricks and mortar retailers, leading many of us to fondly reminisce about a time when you could pop into Woolies for your pick and mix, or scoop up the latest CD from Our Price. As such, we’d love to hear about the one old shop you’d like to see return to the high street.
But before you take our poll, let’s refresh your memory of some of the big names we’ve lost – and why – over the years.
Woolworths – or Woolies as everyone fondly called it – stocked a vast range of toys, music and pick ‘n’ mix sweets. With more than 800 stores, it was a real giant of the British high street for more than a century. Unfortunately it came a cropper in the 2008 financial crash, and combined with changing shopping habits all stores were shut in 2009.
BHS: British Home Stores was a real stalwart of shopping precincts for 92 years before folding in 2016. At the time of its collapse, it had 163 stores in the UK, plus 74 international outlets across 18 separate territories. Some experts claimed the shop was slow to respond to changing modern tastes.
Blockbuster: The simple joys of browsing and taking home physical media in the shape of a VHS video cassette or DVD must seem an alien concept to today’s streaming-savvy youngsters. But that’s what we used to do, and we loved it. The US-founded home video rental store was a massive hit on these shores for many years. But the rise of digital media soon started to chip away until it made trade impossible. By January 2013, the 91 remaining stores slipped into administration.
Virgin Megastore: Enjoying a long shelf life from 1971 to 2007, Virgin Megastore was mainly known for selling CDs and DVDs – and of course we all know how out of favour they are these days. Owner Richard Branson flogged his Megastores to new retailer Zavvi, but this wasn’t enough to keep the business afloat, and it was game over at the end of 2008.
Our Price: ‘Get Down To Our Price’ was the slogan, and we duly did. The store had a good run from 1971 until 2004. It was sold on several times, firstly to WH Smith in 1986 and then Virgin Megastores in 1998 before major Australian entertainment retailer Brazin snapped it up in 2001. By 2003 it was yet again sold on – this time to investment company Primemist – before entering administration in the run-up to Christmas that year.
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