Phil Gillam: As one store door closes another opens
If our dad was still with us, he might have said: “Ah, yes, it’s the coming and going, living and dying, it’s the circle of life.”
He was a bit of a philosopher, our dad.
Just as it’s true one generation has to make way for another, it’s also true that – more often than not – shops and businesses once so familiar to us (Woolworths and British Home Stores?) eventually disappear from the High Street, making way for new up-and-coming enterprises.
This process is especially true of small shops and businesses, of course, who’ll often inhabit a space (perhaps on Wyle Cop, perhaps on Dogpole or in Mardol or on Pride Hill) and then vanish one day to be replaced by some new kid on the block.
My picture this week is a reminder of this process – a photograph of the Maddox department store on the corner of Pride Hill and High Street, a store than was later replaced (in 1975) by Owen Owen and subsequently has been home to several different retailers.
For more than 100 years Maddox was one of the premier stores in Shrewsbury, and known throughout the county. It was opened in 1862 and was developed into what was claimed to be the largest department store in the West Midlands.
Then, one day, it was gone.
So this ebb and flow, this constant change, can affect the big boys too; not just the small independents.
Sadly, it seems to be the turn of Toys R Us and Maplin now (both businesses with stores in Shrewsbury of course). The time has come to bid them farewell.
Some might say it’s hard to feel sorry for multi-million pound businesses, but of course it’s the staff in those stores with whom we sympathise – ordinary people like you and I.
And we might also feel sadness because, for a while at least, these stores were a part of our lives, and we all cling to the familiar and the comfortable, and generally dislike change.
It’s a funny old world, but I – like many – was not a fan of the once-mighty Toys R Us when it first opened its huge store on Meole Brace Retail Park … because it was a global giant killing off small, independent toy shops such as the magical Pickering’s in Mardol.
Pickering’s was a cosy, friendly place packed to the ceiling with teddy bears and train sets, and Matchbox cars and plastic soldiers and Scalextric and dolls and board games and cuddly animals, scooters and bikes, Airfix models, money boxes, jigsaws, paint-by-numbers sets, water pistols, colouring books, Meccano and Lego.
Places like Pickering’s would never have been able to compete with Toys R Us, just as, nationwide, many independent bookshops closed in the wake of Waterstones, and traditional old cinemas vanished in the wake of the multiplexes.
But then, almost inevitably, you form an attachment for the invading giant. A few memorable fun-filled visits to Toys R Us with the children, just before a birthday or in the run-up to Christmas and – hey – you kinda love the place after all.
And in the end, if you’re human, and especially if you care about people losing their jobs, you have to feel sad as you witness what’s happening to these firms.
So Maplin, the electronic retailer, has now followed Toys R Us into administration, putting 5,700 jobs at risk across the two companies.
Maplin has 217 stores nationwide, including ours in Market Street, with 2,500 jobs now on the line. But it says all stores will remain open during the administration process.
In the case of Toys R Us, it’s believed the company had struggled with cash flow pressures after sales were squeezed by worse-than-expected trading over Christmas.
These names we can now add to our list of shops that have disappeared from Shrewsbury over the years: Standish-Taylor, Littlewoods, Macfisheries, Wildings, The Golden Egg restaurant, National Milk Bar, The Model Shop at the bottom of Wyle Cop, Durrants record shop … the list goes on.