Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Missing 'em already?

What's this bowling up the High Street?No - not that fat slag pushing a pushchair containing a peaky whingeing infant with one hand while clamping a mobile phone to her ear with the other. Not the 'Peruvian' pan-pipers optimistically hoping for our spare change either. (Fat chance they've got in these beleaguered times.) Nor the plaintively bleating Big Issue bloke......or those two Poles glumly regretting leaving Kraków to work in blighted Blighty.....

Nope - it's tumbleweed - that plant synonymous with the desolate spaces of the American West; see tumbleweed and think washed-up and run down. It's buffeting hither and thither in the thin January wind - fetching up alongside the other detritus of the townscape in the deserted doorways of once busy shops. Now ceased trading, their doors are shut tight; from their windows hang posters announcing massive Massive Closing Down Sales in which Everything Must Go. It's a miserable sight. The lights are going out in town centres the length and breadth of the land. This is not the High Street as we know it. It gets more desolate by the hour.

Some well known names have gone or are going - each day brings news of another casualty. MFI, Adams, Wittards, Zavvi, Viyella, Wedgewood and of course 'good old' Woolies - all saying a long and tortuous goodbye. Should mention all those independent traders who've thrown in the glove too. I feel desperately sorry for all the employees who, through no fault of their own, are facing their own personal and major credit crunch. Who will be next I wonder?

True, there are some I'll be sad to see go. I'm scratching my head here a bit to think - actually - which in particular...? Hmm - I'll nominate Woolworths in Welshpool - the biggest shop in town and the only supplier of childrens' clothes, DVDs, CDs and Pick 'n' Mix. (A personal note here - wanting a new glass for our one-cup cafetiere I went to the local hardware store for a replacement. They had none in stock and didn't know when more would be in. I tried Woolworths next door, where I could buy a complete cafetiere for £3.00 - cheaper than a replacement glass alone. I bought one, kept the glass and threw away the bits I didn't want. I now wish I'd bought two. Having said that it's about the only purchase I've made there in the 5 years we've lived around here.)





It looks (as they say) like the lights are on but there's no one home....







Perhaps a slimmed down High Street will be a good thing - the whole retail market seemed, to me at least, to have spiraled out of control and become a flabby behemoth filled with stuff we thought we might want but probably didn't need. Mountains of it - stuff, stuff and more stuff.

What's going to fill all that retail space now? Charity shops? Pound Stores? A complete re-think of what and how we buy? Shops but not as we know them. That's the option I'm hoping for. Or will we be left with empty spaces, like gaps in a row of teeth, to remind us of those far-gone, happy and profligate days?

17 comments:

elizabethm said...

Well I am hoping we will all just have to make do and mend a bit more and that wont necessarily be a bad thing. do feel for the loss of jobs though.

Pam said...

Strip malls and local shops are closing here too and leaving behind empty, desolate-looking concrete that will stay where it is until a better time. Things don't tend to get torn down here, but left to rot - maybe because there's so much space to build elsewhere? It's all very sad. On the positive side, my English family have been loading up on Ladybird kids clothes and shipping them over to me for a couple of weeks now. Still, I am sad by Woolies departure ...

Rachel said...

Last month my friend L was training 800 Nissan workers in some NVQ nonsense, as the employer tried to keep them at work; today she heard that there will be only 50 per week to train in the coming month, as redundancies begin to roll out. Like the workers, she is now worried about her mortgage. Things are getting scary now; tumbleweed is not far off.

Pondside said...

Your high street is looking like our main street in every town around here. "Going out of business" and "Liquidation - everything must go!" signs are everywhere.
Maybe some of those empty storefronts can house the increasing number of homeless people on the streets.
I missed your last couple of posts - loved your blue egg - we always have a couple of Auricana's who do that for us. Kids love them!

Frances said...

Mountaineer, this post of your has got me getting my thinking cap on. Maybe, I can get my thoughts together enough to write a blog myself about what the free market and time and do to our local high streets. We don't call them high streets over here in the States, but the phenomenon is the same as recession develops strength.

I quite like the way that you have raised lots of questions.

Answers are so much more difficult to discover and do not have any scheduled time of arrival.

xo

Wipso said...

I'm really hoping there is a lot more make do and mend too elizabethm. It's what I do. I run a sewing business from home and I've never been busier. I have lots of customers buying from charity shops too and bringing things to me to make them fit. Hope lots make a habit of doing this. A x

Milla said...

run altogether, rather than eked over a few weeks, that IS a lot of big names gone. I've never understood "business" but the whole house of cards is wobbling in the wind. Yet still the way OUT of this recession is being mooted as spend spend spend. Don't we all have enough sofas now?? And as for tumbleweed, have encountered it for years in American novels but had always pictured it differently so, thanks for that.

LittleBrownDog said...

Yes, it is all a bit depressing, but I can't help thinking this spend, spend, spend mentality with shopping as the nation's number one leisure activity funded by a seemingly bottomless pit of debt was always going to come to a sticky end eventually, whatever Gordon was telling us. Like Elizabeth, I also feel for those who are bound to lose their jobs but hope there'll somehow be some kind of a sea change creating useful, meaningful jobs in sustainable areas instead of flogging off disposable cafetieres at £3 a shot that end up in landfill almost before the cashier has closed the till.

Calico Kate said...

Hopefully we will get some independent shops setting up. Perhaps this is the end of the big retail chains importing cheap and tatty throw away fashion. If we have less to spend we will want to buy better to last longer and perhaps more individually too. But then again maybe not!
A thought provoking one Mountainear.
CKx

Nan said...

What an excellent posting - one to rival any in a newspaper. Honestly, I think the best writing is going on in blogs these days. It seems as if Britain and the US are on a parallel course these days. High St and Main St are in trouble because of the influx of huge stores on the outskirts of towns. Where once the Main Streets had hardware stores and hat shops and even grocery stores, those items are found out of town now. And sadly, I can understand some of it because before the W. store came to town there was no place to buy, say socks or undershirts for kids. They definitely have supplied a demand, and even a need, but at what cost? There is a lot written now about the low cost of Walmart, and how it really is a high cost to the country as a whole because everything is made somewhere else. Such a problem, such a situation, and I know not how it will all end. And yet, there are no shoe repair places or alteration places to be found for love or money. Basic little businesses like these are what really make the world go round - not trinkets that break in a week or those shoes one just has to have when there are twenty pairs in the closet.

KittyB said...

I'm sad to see them go, particularly saddened by brands such as Wedgwood and Viyella (who'll make my blouses when I'm an old lady now?), but do feel we'd got into the habit of 'stuff' as you say. Woolies in our town was the home of pick-n-mix (don't need it - makes you feel sick in the end), rubbish toys, expensive computer games and ugly clothes for boys (although I admit the girl's stuff was much better). I'm hoping for a better replacement but the huge store will stand empty for some time, along with many others on the street - and some independents or small local chains have gone too - waiting for what? Charity shops and bakers?

david mcmahon said...

You hit the nail on the head when you said ``gaps in a row of teeth''.

May prosperity return. Soon.

Moannie said...

Someone very close to me has had to go into liquidation...eight years of hard work and sacrifice over in a moment. the whole edifice has fallen like a pack of cards built on a clifftop in an earthquake region.
and still we are exhorted every fifteen minutes to buy another sofa, or car, take a holiday and pay later. Credit, and buying what we do not need, greedily watching our two bedroomed semi's climb up the the quarter million mark when we bought it for fifty thou. rubbing our hands with glee at the easy money we were making, while behind he scenes the puppeteers were making millions speculating on our greed.
Time to retreat and retrench, repair not replace. Buy only what we need, for cash, grow your own veg. Ask your grannie, she'll tell you how it was.

Here from POTD at David's author blog

Lee said...

It IS sad to see everything change like this and so much for the worse. It has me worried that folk aren't being realistic about what is reasonable in an economy. Life without work is scary. Have we forgotten what it means to think of others, instead of ourselves?

Popped over from David's. Congratulations on making his Post of the Day list.

Cheers!

kissa said...

I am one who will applaud a 'make do and mend' fashion.When my kids were small I used to pick up second hand clothes in jumble sales etc wash them and cut them down to funky pairs of play trousers and dungarees. Now they are grown up they laugh at the thought that they were the jolliest and most colourful kids in Cornwall.

Tessa said...

Perhaps it's a good thing - she says in a whisper. The homogenised high streets of English towns could do with an influx of imagination. I, too, feel so badly for people who have lost their jobs, but perhaps we can all start creating again? Or is that just pie?

Mojo said...

Woolworth's folded their tents and left town here 20 years ago or more. I didn't realize they even still existed.

The same thing's happening on this side of the pond. Can't drive down Glenwood Ave without being blinded by garish neon colored signboards proclaiming some other poor sucker's cashing it in. I suppose other more daring businesses will step in to fill the void... or maybe not. Could be there's nobody left with the capital to rent the space.

Congrats on your POTD nomination at David's by the way.