On a recent visit to the old country, lost in a strange town, I asked directions of a passing local.
“You see Woolworths, over there?” She pointed at the familiar facade. “Well, just walk straight through, and you’ll come out onto the High Street.” And that’s exactly what I did. Walked straight through. In one door and out of another. And that’s all I’ve been doing for many years now, using the store as a short-cut to somewhere else, as my childhood Emporium of Dreams gradually lost its magic.
How did they get it so wrong? As a small girl I spent many happy hours trudging around Woollies with my grandmother as she shopped for knitting wool and soap, a new broom, Glymiel jelly for her poor old hands, razor blades for her miserable old husband, and all the while my eyes turned hopefully to the pick-and-mix counter from where, if Granny had a spare 6d., she’d buy a few ounces of sweets for us to share as we made our way home. A visit to Woollies in those days was an utterly satisfying experience.
Not any more, though. Depressing , disorganised, dull. Rows of shelving laid out in an awkward herringbone design, with a higgledy-piggledy, haphazard mixture of items that look as if nobody has had time to arrange them logically, but simply dumped them on the nearest available space. Why would anybody go there, when there are so many more attractive alternatives? Oh Woollies, where did your Wonder go?