Shops for sale

In 2008 it was Woolworths that vanished from our high streets, never to be seen again and this summer there are a plethora of retailers falling into administration. Parts of Habitat are in the hands of the administrators, entertainment giants HMV are ‘in crisis’ and every day a new name is added to what’s becoming a depressingly long list.

‘Woolies’ was a staple of the British high street, ingrained in my memory as an excellent place to buy Christmas sweeties and the place I found my favourite socks (Elvis with the date of his first concert embroidered on them from Woolworths in Whitby, since you didn’t ask).

The point is that Woolies stocked just about everything. A one stop shop which still couldn’t continue to turn a profit. And now it is the fashion and lifestyle retailers who are suffering.

Fashion retailer Jane Norman has announced it has called in administrators, after accumulating £140m debt and T J Hughes is also set to be a casualty. (The Guardian)

“Chocolate heaven since 1911” is Thornton’s slogan but it’s now turning into a bit of a retail hell with plans to close scores of shops.

Retailers are always closing down and going out of business, but rarely have we seen such an extensive slump in spending. UK retail sales fell 1.4% in May and it would seem that people simply cannot afford, or are too fearful of what’s to come, to shop with any vigour.

Everything seems expensive because nobody has any money. Disposable income is retail mercury and all we see at the moment is the thermometer plunging.

It’s a vicious circle – we don’t spend – so stores close – jobs are lost – so more people don’t spend. Just maybe the powers that be need to do a bit more than appoint ‘Mary Queen of Shops’ – even her guruness can’t make people spend what they haven’t got.

Not that these retailers are giving up without a fight, Thorntons is expanding its supermarket ranges while Jane Norman has sold 33 stores to Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

I’m confident I did my bit, but apparently even my penchant for Thorntons Sicilian lemon mousse bars and my policy of buying ‘one in every colour’ at Jane Norman was not enough to keep either retailer in business.