Friday, December 12, 2008

So. Farewell Then...

I popped into Woolworths this morning. You may've read the stories of frantic bargain-buying as the historic chain of general stores crumbles into crunchy dust, with 27,000 job losses likely. As I stepped over the threshold into the busy but forlorn Stoke Newington branch, something wonderfully inappropriate came on the PA: Ricky Martin's mindlessly jaunty Livin' La Vida Loca.

The horrendous, rather shocking bridge-line "she'll take away your pain / like a bullet to your brain" ricocheted around the uniformly unhappy shoppers, who were queueing 15 people deep. My friend Sara has done a lot of research into the anthropology of queueing in the past, and I wonder if she can explain why it is that more working-class orientated shops have longer, sadder queues. Primark, Matalan... it's always the same.

When the news of the chain's demise first broke, a friend's Facebook status ran as follows: "RIP Woolworths: heaven needed some shears, a sandwich toaster and a big bag of cola bottles". And that's the nub of it: there just isn't a commercial point to its overly-broad remit anymore; Woolworths is a relic, its outdated place in the British consciousness reflected in the battered, cold, grey linoleum that lines its floors.

Whoever chooses the music playing over the PA seemed to understand its obselescence: first the blackly ironic Livin' La Vida Loca, then, equally bizarrely, Geri Halliwell's 'Mi Chico Latino'. Why were they playing second-rate chart pop from 1999? Pop hits of the 60s would have seemed less dated, somehow.

Even the closing down sale itself was dripping with pathos - half-empty shelves supporting cheap, broken produce, attended to by poor, unhappy customers. 20% off a wilting mug tree? You're alright, thanks. The signs advertising "10% OFF" explained how much of a saving 10% worked out as, on prices of £1, £2, £3, £4, etc. If you can't work out 10% of £1 I'm not sure you deserve a mug tree. Your mugs can bloody well sort themselves out.


Blogger John said...

Bromley branch has started just putting out plastic crates of stuff, some of them stacked on the floor, and they haven't swept the floor for three days: there's detritus everywhere.

When Bromley Allders shut down, I went in on it's penultimate day to find the basement devoid of anything except two cardboard boxes of crap in front of two tills. Leonard Cohen could have written a song about this gloriously maudlin moment. I bought some socks for about twenty pence.

9:19 AM  

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