Buy Buy at Woolies Tooting

Published on 23 December 2008 in , , , ,

I hadn’t expected to go into a Woolworths before “the end” but I found myself having just left the Halifax in Tooting and decided to visit the one other the road – a one last time event.

I don’t recall ever going in there before, although despite its relative close proximity to my house, Tooting just isn’t a place I visit very often.

Woolworths, Hackney

Photo by Martin Deutsch. Released under Creative Commons licence

It was pretty busy and seemingly well stocked – well until you looked beneath the surface and realised that at least a quarter of the shelves were stocked high and wide with the same product. Row after row after row of Doctor Who merchandise in particular – presumably ordered in the expectation of a “big” Christmas, and now marked down to 30% off.

Huge chunks of the store seemed to consist purely of Woolworths branded stuff – pillow cases, toasters, shower curtains, even a household CCTV system. One wall was full of suitcases of all sizes. On one isle I found stacks of blue boxes full of products which elderly women were rifling through. Big signs informed me the prices were 70% off, although signs telling me what the price actually was in the first place were conspicuous by their absence.

Past toys (TARDIS playsets, large Daleks, no Lego – shame!) and it was into childrens clothes (mostly dressing up outfits), and up to music and DVDs. Surprisingly most of the shop floor was still in use – Tooting branch is one of the later end of closures, with the doors shutting on 2 January, and there’s clearly a lot of stock to get rid off.

I rifled casually round the CDs and DVDs. Classic Doctor Who and Series 1 of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine caught my eye although 30% off of £20 is still more expensive than – even in closing down mode, Woolies can’t compete. Not, incidentally, that the shelf edge labels gave much of a clue to the prices – handy “guides” helped you with an idea of the discount, but only went up to prices of £16. At some point they must be about to get more desperate – someone will have a nice bargin on them.

Being at the end of the store, it was time to head to the front, past rows of games, DVDs and CDs few wanted. Then it was up to greeting cards – racks and racks and racks. No one was planning on stocking up for the year it seemed.

In stationary, just Woolies own brand remained. You could buy blank DVDs until the cows come home, but only if you wanted something that was “Worth It!”.

Nearby was the strange sight of two people there to promote a new range of make-up – offering special offers of “85% off”. Why you’d launch a make up range in a store just nine days from closure is another matter, and putting on the slap seemed to be what few had in mind.

Sweets were more fun although a terse sign apologised for them being unable to sell pick and mix. At one end of the pick and mix fixture, another terse sign proclaiming that the plastic buckets were the property of Candy King and must not be sold or destroyed.

Still chocolate and mints were aplenty – and 30% off. Nearing the exit, I decided what the hell and picked up two packets of Bassets mint selection.

But the most depressing sight was not the ramshackle demise of a retailing legend, but the simple A4 printed signs at every till, on every door.

“This store will not tolerate abuse and attacks on it’s staff.”

Is this what a closing down sale has become? Where people who are about to lose their jobs and face an uncertain future, get a barrage of complaints because the discount isn’t big enough? Sadly yes.

Thankfully during my visit, all was calm. Busy but calm as people queued and staff – some no longer even bothered enough to wear a uniform – took the money.

Not mine though. Too long and too slow for the sake of 60p off some mints. Perhaps next week. When the shelves have been stripped of almost everything anyone could ever want. Except perhaps all those suitcases. And that home CCTV system…