The Jam once sang about how:
Saturday’s girls work in Tesco and Woolworths
And listening to Saturday’s Kids on the bus home yesterday evening made me think again about the gap created in our high street when our Woolies branch closed the other week. Woolies was one of life’s fixtures for me and the kids I grew up with and though many of us had Saturday jobs, I can’t remember if anyone I knew had a Saturday job in Woolies. I know that we all spent a lot of time and money there – I spent mine on a stack of LPs and cassettes. It is still hard to accept that our local Woolies is gone and that the remaining stores will close today.
Those who have lost their jobs as a result are no doubt feeling the impact of Woolies’ closure in a big way. The rest of us have maybe tended to think in terms of how there is now one place less for us to pick up a DVD, computer game, some stationery, a gift card, or a fix for our sweet tooth – I know I’ve been guilty of doing just that. I’m already personally all too aware of the affect of the credit crunch but, thanks to a few words written by Paul Weller almost 20 years ago, I’m thinking more about the reality of its wider impact.
In small towns like Stornoway the closure of Woolies will have wider consequences. Stornoway is bracketted by a couple of large supermarkets – the Co-op on one side and Tesco on the other. That’s as far as many people go when they come to town to shop because they can get pretty much everything they need there – they don’t need to visit the town centre. Unless they need to visit a pharmacy or … Woolies. Now that Woolies is gone there is one less reason to visit the town centre and that’s not good news for the other retailers – mostly local, small and independent – who ply their trade there. There will also be one less user of the hauliers who bring goods to town, tightening their margins and having a knock on effect on our ferry service as a few less trucks cross between the islands and the mainland.
So at the moment things don’t look to good – either here or in the rest of the UK. However, I don’t think that is a reason to prophesy doom and gloom. Economies are cyclical things and we’re fast approaching the bottom of a cycle – I like to think that we’re at the bottom already (or at least closer to it than we think) and that things will slowly start to improve. It may take most of this year but the economy will improve, people will buy and sell houses again, new shops will fill the high street spaces, and Saturday’s Kids will find other places to work and hang out.