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Retail catastrophe… March 15, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I worked in various retail outlets over the years – and later worked for companies with retail arms. It always struck me how precarious the whole thing was and how poorly paid and at times bad the conditions were. I was never in a shop that closed down, as such, though I did work in companies where shops were closed down, and worked with people in that situation.

There’s a uniquely depressing aspect to seeing the process by which a business fails and how that impacts on those who work in it – the withdrawal of resources, the paring away of worker numbers, the increasingly decrepit showrooms and so on. I also had that experience at the height of the early 2000s boom which added nothing good at all to the mix, though at least those made redundant were able to get jobs subsequently.

It’s the little details, as this piece in the Guardian from last week outlined. One worker who recounts how she and others in a store that closed on Christmas Eve were allowed to take a ‘chocolate’ bar from the tills as…well, what? What was that about? Or how about:

The way we found out how we were losing our jobs was awful. We’d had emails and calls about going into administration, and then one day I was at home before work, and my manager called me in floods of tears. She said she’d just opened a box of point-of-sales stuff and it all had “closing-down sale” on it. There’s no good way to find out you are losing your job, but that is one of the worst.

Technology too, music and video shops, washed away by change. Though as one person notes…

When I started it was laser discs. I was 29 at the time and not into gaming, but I went through the launch of three PlayStations. I can remember DVDs coming in and Blu-rays launching. There were consoles that never caught on, for example 3D Blu-ray – one customer came in saying that they’d just spent £1,000 on a 3D TV. I thought: “That’s not going to last long.”
It was a complete balls-up, really, although I don’t think any of us saw it would be all “Netflix and chill”.

And how’s this as a vision of the future?

The BHS location is still empty. They were going to put a gym in, but it hasn’t happened. Losing the store was big for Widnes. There’s nowhere you can get nice bedding or towels; it has really dive-bombed. It’s either pound shops or charity shops.

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1. CL - March 15, 2019

‘more than 5,000 store closings have already been announced in 2019, for this year and beyond.’
https://moneywise.com/a/retailers-closing-stores-in-2019

Amazon rules.

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2. An Sionnach Fionn - March 15, 2019

A family member was in the north of England for work recently, a medium sized city (by UK standards), and he was surprised that the buildings in the main shopping streets in the city-centre were largely empty, with boarded-up or whitewashed windows, or vandalised, or consisted of pound shops and their derivatives, bookies, off-licences, (lots of) charity shops or fast food “dumps” (his words) and pretty much nothing else. He went out one of the days to the main retail park and beyond a mediocre Tescos, a pet store and a few branded clothes shops there was very little there either beyond empty units.

Lots of teens and tweens hanging around in the streets, drinking cans and generally being rowdy. The kind of kids that would normally have found their foot on the employment ladder in the local shops that no longer exist.

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rockroots - March 15, 2019

Sounds like most towns in rural Ireland too, BTW.

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WorldbyStorm - March 15, 2019

Yep, it’s going that way. Was in Learherhead in England six years or so ago and amazed at number of charity shops – now parts of Dublin are like that

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An Sionnach Fionn - March 15, 2019

Ah now, not that bad. Well, not from his description. I remember being down in a few places during the worse years of the recession and they had a rundown feel, a few closed shops and so on, for a long time. But the local family shops were still there and the “main streets” were still quite busy and looked after. This was a big city. But then again, I suppose all things are relative.

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3. rockroots - March 15, 2019

Well, OK, I’m thinking very specifically of Longford, which I’m very familiar with. Literally half the premises on Main Street have been vacant since the recession and there’s no prospect of them reopening anytime soon. Just charity shops and fast food. Even the off-main street shopping centre which took a lot of the business away now has empty units. An there’s a big and growing heroin problem. In Longford!

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WorldbyStorm - March 15, 2019

Was in Roscommon recently and although parts were pretty lively, others were a bit desolate. Though, as an aside I have to think that is the most depopulated county I’ve ever been in on the island. Town after town driving through and next to no one on the streets.

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benmadigan - March 16, 2019

saw that a couple of years ago driving to the west and kerry.
It was awful – silence, no footfall up and down main streets, shops closed, one restaurant/pub in some towns and villages, houses boarded up etc.
It was the silence and emptiness got me.
People were just gone, had emigrated.
Kept thinking famine times must have been like that for the survivors

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Gearóid - March 15, 2019

I got that from Longford too, last summer.

Does anybody know of it is similar in north Cork? I used to take the Limerick-Cork bus around 2008 quite regularly and the towns on the main route I could only describe as ‘strong towns’. All buildings on the main streets occupied. Predominantly family businesses. Really nice to see.

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WorldbyStorm - March 15, 2019

I haven’t been there in a year or two. Last time I was it didn’t seem too bad.

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4. FergusD - March 15, 2019

Everyone I know goes on about the number of charity shops on the high street of the English Midlands suburb/town I live in. Apparently they pay reduced council tax and use mostly volunteers, small shops find that location rather expensive. There has also been a proliferation of cafes. I counted 12 on the short high road. Pound shops of course. Still a good grocer and butcher but not really anywhere to buy clothes etc. Other places though are much more down at heel.

Big department store just closed in the city, I’m sure there will be more. John Lewis is in trouble. The big auto companies are shedding 10s of thousands of jobs, with profits of around 5%. Better to speculate in currency. I see Rees-Mogg made £7 million via his hedge fund recently (now in Dublin). Capitalism is in trouble, another recession on its way.

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WorldbyStorm - March 15, 2019

It’s not a pretty picture if we project ourselves five, ten, fifteen, twenty years ahead. Is it?

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5. Logan - March 15, 2019

I think people may be underestimating the possible vibrancy of urban areas. From what I can see in Dublin city centre anyway, there seems to be plenty of businesses other than traditional shops that feel they will generate enough revenue to take over units.For instance, a street like like Capel Street – mostly “proper” shops 20 years ago, is now mostly restaurants and cafes.

Now, personally I have some mixed feelings about this as I think there is just too many cafes and restaurants in Dublin city centre nowadays, compared “ordinary” shops. But obviously they have their market, and obviously they are in a position where they can outbid the other types of shop for the space.

Of course, his might not really work that well for a town like Longford, but still and all when I was in Tullamore recently I was taken by how many restaurants and cafes there was in the main street. Only noticed one or two boarded-up shops.

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WorldbyStorm - March 15, 2019

Fair points. Tullamore does strike me as pretty busy, though I wonder is that because it is effectively within a sort of functional catchment area of Dublin too?

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benmadigan - March 16, 2019

I know what you mean about Capel St in Dublin.I saw the trendy eateries etc
When I spoke to some shopkeepers there a couple of years ago, they were very keen on maintaining the distinctive character of local ordinary shops. Are they fighting a losing battle?

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6. Jim Monaghan - March 16, 2019

There is a French novel which has the emergence of department stores and the end of small shops as a backdrop. In my time supermarkets did for grocery and other shops. Now we have online shopping. Main Streets and High Streets have to reinvent themselves. Other wise they are doomed. Expect a chorus of King Canute calls ofr lower rates etc. to stem the tide. Waste of time and resources. These closed shops will never reopen as shops.And forget polls showing people prefer artisan butchers and are prepared to pay more.Though I do see room for high quality products carving our some space. Would yiou pay a higher interest rate to a bank with physical branches? Turn a lot of them into housing. See what is viable.

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