Acorn Stairlifts takes a look at the big name brands who have disappeared from Britain's high streets over the past four decades...
Some of the biggest name brands that have sat amongst British High Streets have vanished over the past 40 years. BHS is one of latest which has joined the growing list of those memorable shops that have disappeared off the High Street, with 164 BHS outlets that closed down around the UK after the business went into administration in April 2016.
Acorn Stairlifts takes a look at 10 once-familiar chain stores that have closed over the years.
Woolworths – This once familiar store had everything you needed from clothes to pick ‘n’ mix. The first Woolworths store opened in the UK in 1909 and quickly branched across the nation. The American-owned chain become a firm favourite and some called it “Woollies”. The “credit crunch” had heavily impacted to a point in which it struggled to survive through. Between December 2008 and January 2009, all 807 stores were closed down. The Woolworths brand had briefly survived and its Ladybird children’s clothing was bought by the Littlewoods online business.
C&A – The Dutch firm, C&A was known for its quality clothes that were at reasonable prices had announced its withdrawal from the British Market in 2000, and closed 109 stores. Retail Analysts had reported that it had failed to keep up with the changing fashions and had recorded several losses in the 1990s. Mid-market retailers such as Next and Gap had increased the competition for the company and hasten its demise.
Radio Rentals – This shop established in Brighton during the 1930s, which rocketed the market with the demand for radios. They rented them out rather than selling, along with TVs, video recorders and other electronic goods with a prohibitively high purchase price. As the competition grew in the consumer electronics market, prices began to tumble and more people were choosing to buy outright for their electronics. Radio Rentals was eventually bought out by BoxClever, however the brand still lives on in Australia.
Comet – This business also established during the 1930s but didn’t open its first electrical good store until 1968. Comet had expanded rapidly across Britain with High Street Stores throughout different cities. It was in 2012 when it unfortunately ran up losses of £95m. A capital investment firm had famously bought it out for £2, but had failed to turn the business around and all 236 stores were closed by Christmas.
Fine Far – Once one of Britain’s home-grown supermarket brands, this store established in the 1950s and grew rapidly through the 60s and 70s. But by the 80s, Fine Fare was struggling with competition from other rapidly-growing chains such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco, which were both opening larger out-of-town outlets. In the end, Fine Fare was sold to the owner of Gateway in the late 80s and its stores were closed or rebranded.
WH Smith Do It All – In 1979, stationery provider WH Smith had decided to expand into the DIY business. But, from the start they had struggled to compete. They had merged with Boot-owned Payless DIY in the 90s. WH Smith eventually sold its half to Boots for a £1 voucher, with Boots later selling to Focus DIY, which itself ended up going into liquidation in 2011.
Midland Bank – Although, this isn’t a store but Midland Bank was still a fixture on our high streets. It was one of the UK’s big four banks in the 70s, along with Lloyds, NatWest and Barclays. It established as the Birmingham and Midland Bank in 1936. It pioneered many changes in the banking industry, but was taken over in 1992 by HSBC. All of its branches were rebranded as HSBC from 1999, but smaller branches have since closed as online banking became more widely used.
Freeman, Hardy and Willis – This business became one of the first national shoe shop chains that originally opened in Leicester in the 70s. Because of the size, the business was able to produce shoes in large quantities and offer them cheaply to customers at the time when the only other option was expensive custom-made shoes. This is what made it difficult for them, as they were unable to compete with bigger cut-price chains selling cheap foreign-made shoes. Freeman, Hardy and Willis became part of the British Shoe Corporation and stopped trading in the mid-90s.
Dewhurst the Master Butcher – The business was founded in Merseyside in the late 1800s, and had over 1,400 outlets by 1997, but had gone into administration not long later. The increasing competitions from supermarkets selling pre-packaged meat at cheaper prices hit Dewhurst hard. Health concerns were raised in the 2000s which also saw a move away from red meat. The company was simply too big to sustain and went into administration in 2006.
Safeway – This was once one of the UK’s fourth largest supermarket in 2002. The problems had occurred from the other three, Morrisons, Asda and Tesco, which were growing much more quickly impacting its profits. Safeway had floundered by 2004, leading to its acquisitions by Bradford-based Morrisons. There were some stores that were sold off to other retailers in areas, that already had a Morrisons but the majority of their stores became Morrisons stores. It was in November 2005 when the Safeway brand had completely disappeared.
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