The twin announcements of the demise of MFI and Woolworths set me thinking about the knock-on effects of these failed businesses.

Even Ma-in-law was concerned at the news of Woolworths disappearing. With the impact of the news she retained the information in her memory store, which is usually very short-term these days. When she was young the Saturday treat was to take the train, twenty miles East to shop in Woolworths. In those days, the shop was a veritable storehouse with all types of merchandise including, ladies wear,menswear, children’s clothes, spectacles,groceries sweets and so on. There was no need to travel when another Woolworths opened on the West side of the county. In their respective places, the stores still operate.

One of the local painting firms started tidying and painting the interior of the store in the East side of the county; it was a terrible mess for years with curtains of paint hanging down the walls. The refurbishing has come to a juddering halt with the news of receivership. The painter is likely to be an unsecured creditor,like many other suppliers, businesses and individuals are likely to be.

Employees are in a parlous state. They know their salaries are secure till the end of November. Who will now be retained by the receivers to keep the business selling whatever goods it has in the stores? Inevitably, there will be employment casualties in a few days. This will be repeated when the seasonal selling is done. There are pensions at stake as well. In the more remote places, at any rate, employees tend to be long term.

Much of the same will apply to MFI, a company that rose like a phoenix from the ashes with a management buy-out. It has now collapsed. It is doubtful that there could be a reprise.

It was clear from discussions today that where major purchases are concerned, that is anything £100 and above, paying up front or by cheque is not a safe option, especially when you are left with part deliveries, awaiting deliveries, or you are in the throes of installing a kitchen. The buyer has much financial protection when using a credit card or a visa debit card, though, I am not clear if the protection is overarching with a debit card.

There will be many casualties of businesses that fail; as customers it is imperative people try, where they can, not to become one of the growing band of unsecured creditors.



  1. It is a same your WoolWorths is closing. Ours here in the states has been gone for a good ten years. Grewup with Woolworths. I do miss those stores. They also use to have Kreges Wall mart and K mart took those stores over. And I am not sure it was an improvement

  2. The Woolworths in Lyme – a much loved bucket and spade place as alluded to in my poem yesterday – was closed a couple of months ago and has been bought by Tescos, who will no doubt do their best to turn Lyme (currently a small town with mostly family retailers) into an outlying suburb of Tescopolis.

    It is as if a small piece of my own childhood (and memories of my own children’s too) has been taken away. A great shame, and perhaps an indictment of the management team failing to keep Woolworths as the ‘village shop on the high street’ – somewhere you can get stuff it’s not easy to find without going out of town to the DIY superstores etc.

  3. I haven’t been into their virtual museum, I didn’t know Woollies had one.

    In our small town, Woolworths is only one of three chain stores. The other two are grocery. The store still had that older fashioned feel about it though mobile phones, X-boxes DVD’s and CD’s have replaced records and tapes. The core areas returned, threads, shoe repair kits, various light bulbs, about three years ago, which we were delighted to see. However, the store then lost adult tights and socks and brought in more housework materials. The Ladybird children’s goods were contracted – a great pity as they were very good and sold well. I do feel the business brand leadership lost its way.

  4. You lost your stores so long ago. I had no idea. Walmart have taken over a supermarket chain here (about 3 or 4 years ago)reducing the quality of the stores’ image and goods. Most people like it, (though we don’t have one within reach)because The stores -Asda- have a national gas price selling policy and not a localised one like other outlets operate.

  5. Many of my sentiments in your comment Lois. It is interesting your nearest store is already closed. We were pleased when ‘Woollies’brought back some haberdashery, but not so pleased when we lost good clothing for kids and some adult clothing items. This summer, Americans crowded in to the store (go hang the rest!) just to buy up the pick-and-mix sweets, most varieties they hadn’t seen in years.

    I don’t share your feelings about Tesco. If wasn’t them, you could have the Co-op. I know which one I prefer of the two, having experienced both first hand. These days, these are the only two companies I know of that move their businesses into less populated areas U.K. wide. Other companies either don’t want to have the bother, or won’t take on small commercial concerns.

  6. Hi, I tried the link just now and it worked, however its probably a cached page on my PC, so I tried just – which is apparently undergoing essential maintenance! Maybe reducing all the prices on their site? Or adjusting all the VAT?
    Anyway, try it next week as there is so much history of Woolworths on the site it would be a shame to miss it.

  7. I got it a few minutes ago (22.15) probably not so virtually busy. I have put the various sections on favourites to go back to soon. Thanks.

    VAT reductions are going to be interesting to see. I noticed that J Lewis’ online was the only major retailer alerting customers to the facts that their reductions will include the vat reduction by the end of this week. Others were trying to get in beforehand, for whatever other reason (far be it from me to cast aspersions!)without a mention of the cheaper than cheap reductions on this week’s prices. :>>

  8. not only should one rely on credit cards for everything that it is certain you will not return, but also forgo gift cards! No gift cards as presents – in a bankruptcy holders will end up as unsecured creditors, and that generally means a complete loss.

  9. I remember growing up in Terre Huate, Indiana downtown we had a big Woolworth’s on main street it even had a gril and then there were two Kresge’s and one of them had a grill. Then at a smaller mall there was another woolworths. But, I think it was in the 70;s that we lost them. And if you ask me it was a big loss. Of course we lost a lot of department stores and main street isnt the same anymore. so goes main street america

  10. Good one Hayden. In this climate that is very good advice.

    National book tokens I do, though not this year. They are redeemable in any bookshop nationwide that supports the scheme. Even the few small independent ones support it, as it brings in business at both ends of the sales scale. Or,I might buy a service at one of our local beautician’s, who will still be in business for a good while yet.

    I did give vouchers once, as a ‘thank you’ to volunteers who helped me with some research I was doing. They were vouchers that could be used where they lived, on a remote island. I am not sure I would do it now. The same company who issued those vouchers, also ran a Christmas savings club. Two years later, they were out of business, leaving a lot of people well out-of-pocket and in distress.

  11. There was some history of Woolworths discussed on BBC radio today. The gist of it was the rise and fall of the company, from its American roots to its later British identity. The reporter was saying the America lost all its Woolworths Stores in the 1990’s. By the sound of it, there were closures well before that.

    I have heard that there have been stores closed around the UK in recent months. I know that various stores in big city districts sold out years ago. If there is to be any retention of the name, the suggestion is that priority should be given to those branches that form centrepieces of small communities. Let’s wait and see. That definition should include the two in our county, which are twenty miles apart.

  12. It is only talk at present, about retaining a few Woolworths stores. The receivers are handling the company at the moment and our local store was selling off stock at either cost price or less yesterday. I had already wandered around the shop the day before, there was nothing I wanted. Most of my Xmas shopping is done and my habit is to buy what gifts I may want throughout the year, when I’m travelling, for example. Choices are limited here Sad…

    Interestingly, there was a two day sale locally, this weekend, for a charity, lots of new things at attractive prices. This sale had more of interest for me.

  13. We already do have a Co-op just two doors up from ex-Woolies – open all hours and much used by locals and visitors. But I imagine Tescos will indulge in its practice of selling below cost to drive them out of business, as has already happened in other small towns.

    The Co-op may be old fashioned in retail terms, but they have admirable principles WRT fair trade, community involvement etc.

    So I think we have to agree to disagree on this one!

  14. Yes, we will have to agree to disagree as I have the experience of these stores too.

    Tesco is not taking business from the Co-op, in this area the Co-op is increasing its profile though not its choices. As for WRT, Fair Trade, etc, I think it a cynical bit of marketing these days. All the stores are on the visible bandwagon.

    Tesco have helped this community far more than the Co-op ever did. For the first time in their little contracted choice life,the Co-op stores here, are having to offer us something. It even has to pay its staff a proper rate of pay; it got away with paying as little as it could in the recent past. It has less and less of what I want to by, it is expensive, always has been and the local store is not a pleasant place to shop in.

    The Co-op was the store when I first came here, that treated its customers like cattle. I refused to let it happen to me. Others followed my response, the behaviour changed.

    Pardon me if I am jaundiced about commerce, I think I have grounds for my stance.

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