Over a decade after its closure, Brits miss Woolworths more than any other store


The latest research from the home delivery expert ParcelHero reveals that – for all the devastation Covid-19 has caused on our High Streets – a retailer that closed 14 years ago is the one we miss the most.

ParcelHero asked shoppers which stores they wish were still on our High Streets, and while some they listed only vanished during the pandemic, others closed their doors for the last time decades ago. ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks M.I.L.T., says: ‘Consumers are showing decreasing brand loyalty in the era of internet shopping, but still remain loyal to the memory of many former favourites.

The top five most-missed High Street stores are:

1. Woolworths: Woolworths vanished as long ago as 2008, yet it’s still the store Brits miss most of all. We were a little surprised that “the wonder of Woolies” has stayed evergreen in the memory of shoppers. It seems we all miss its eclectic mix of competitively priced products, from baby clothes to saucepans to that great Pick n’ Mix. My grandmother was a Woolworths girl back in the 1930s and it clearly retains a place in many families’ hearts.

2. Debenhams: A close second came Debenhams, which closed its High Street stores in 2021, although it survives online as part of Boohoo. The department store could trace its history back to 1778. Our respondents said they particularly valued Debenhams’ beauty products, cafes and handy loos!

3. Mothercare: The baby and infants’ store Mothercare came third in our poll. Shoppers say they really miss the fact they could buy large items such as prams, together with smaller items including children’s clothing, in one shop. Mothercare opened in 1961 and closed its UK stores in 2019, though it is still represented on our High Streets inside Boots chemists.

4. Laura Ashley: Laura Ashley, founded in 1963 and a staple part of every 1980s High Street, went into administration in 2020 as a result of changing consumer fashions. However, the Laura Ashley name can now be seen once again in many Next stores.

5. Topshop: By the time it closed in 2021, Topshop wasn’t the fashion leader it had been when it was founded in 1964, but its 300 UK stores were still a major part of the High Street. ASOS took over the brand, which continues as an online-only retailer. Ironically, in 1999 the UK’s first online fashion site, Zoom, was born out of Topshop’s High Street success and had its launch event at Topshop’s Oxford Street store.

Our respondents also listed many other familiar names that they wish were still on the High Street. Honourable mentions should go to BHS (the former British Home Stores) which closed as long ago as 2016, and the toy superstore Toys ‘R’ Us, which disappeared from the UK in 2018.

Three other retailers still had many Brits feeling nostalgic, long after their final closure. They deserve a special shout-out:

Blockbuster: the video rental store chain Blockbuster was once a vital part of people’s Friday and Saturday night plans. The famous blue and yellow stores closed in 2013, after the rise of streaming channels made hiring videos obsolete.

Athena: The card and poster store Athena disappeared way back in 1995 but is fondly remembered for its range of iconic posters. Remember that infamous tennis girl poster?

Tandy: A number of men who responded mentioned the electronics favourite Tandy, which closed in 2001. Back in the ‘80s it was a favourite place for buying graphic equalisers and 5-pin DIN plugs!

‘It’s interesting that most of the top 5 stores still have an online presence. Indeed, there was huge excitement over the fake launch of a new Woolworths site last year. However, ParcelHero has been warning about the dangers of a shift to online-only stores for some time. We believe a balanced ‘brick-and-click’ approach will be best for retailers and shoppers alike.

ParcelHero’s influential report ‘2030: Death of the High Street’ has been discussed in Parliament. It reveals that unless retailers develop an omnichannel approach, embracing both online and physical store sales, the High Street as we know it will reach a dead-end by 2030. Read the full report at: https://www.parcelhero.com/content/downloads/pdfs/high-street/deathofthehighstreetreport.pdf