Closure of Local Woolworths Store – Provides Company with Racking

It was a sad day on Saturday as our local Woolworths store opened its doors to shoppers for the last time.  The company had announced that it would have to go into administration if no buyer for the business could be found.  This announcement was made before Christmas, sadly, no buyer came forward and Woolworths, such a famous name on the British high street is going out of business.  This reflects the current state of retail as a result of the credit crunch and the economic downturn in our country.  We are going to be officially in a recession by the end of this month (January), however, this is really an arbitrary term, a recession is defined as two quarters in a row when there is negative growth in the economy.  How this definition came about reflects politics, an American Presidential administration had to find a way of describing the state of the U.S. economy and an economist came up with the term, to help them avoid stating that the USA was facing a slow down.  No matter what the definition, I think most people in the UK are feeling the pinch.

Anyway, as Woolworth’s last trading day dawned, the front of the shop was crowded with bargain hunters, but for us we had an appointment at the back of the shop as Everything Dinosaur was interested in acquiring some of the warehouse racking.  Our local shop was opened in 1926 (we think), the town has grown up around it and the building had poor access for loading and unloading as a result.  The warehouse and storage area was above the shop floor and could be accessed by stairs or by two goods lifts.  Stepping into the back of the shop was a bit like going back in time.  As palaeontologists we are comfortable with the concept of “Deep Time”, ancient geological processes and time spans over millions of years, but going into the Woolworth’s warehouse transported us back to the 1930s.  Some of the storage bays seemed to have their original wooden shelving.  These fine, sturdy structures had served the company well.  Occasionally, we found etched into them the name of a former employee and the dates of their tenure.  It kind of brought home to us, that this was a part of Britain’s retail heritage and we were there on the day that it disappeared.

The great big wooden beams that supported the roof and the dark, brooding, empty storage bays gave the warehouse a depressing appearance.  It was also somewhat chaotic as the last of the stock was brought down to be sold at giveaway prices as this once mighty trading establishment finally crumpled.

For Everything Dinosaur, we had gone into the shop to look at the metal racking bays, as with all fixtures and fitting for sale by the administrators, this gave us an opportunity to purchase some more shelving for our own warehouse.  We examined the bays and chose which bits we wanted and then assisted by a couple of Woolies staff we completed the paperwork and became the owners of a little piece of retailing history.

One of the things to note about sales of distressed stock or a closing down sale is not to procrastinate too long.  Decide if you are serious and then make your purchase, the magnificent staff don’t want to have to deal with time-wasters, especially on a day like Saturday – for some their last day at work for Woolworths after a service stretching back 20 years or more.

It is also important to return quickly to collect your purchases, especially with things like warehouse racking.  We knew it would get very busy and that everyone would be after the best bits, so we planned to view the racking in the morning and then if having made a purchase; to return that afternoon to dismantle it and take it away.

We chose a number of metal racking bays, and true to our word made our purchase quickly and then returned within 2 hours to dismantle and remove them.  We felt quite sad as we carefully took apart our newly acquired shelving in readiness for transporting to our little warehouse.  By the time we had finished, we were dusty and the warehouse had taken on a eerie perspective as it was slowly gutted.

The staff were extremely helpful and their demeanour on what for many was the last day in the only job they had ever known, was remarkable.  With their help, our team members were able to dismantle the racking (after giving it a good brushing down as it was very dusty), pack it up and get it down to the ground floor and out onto the loading bay area so that we could take it away.  We took care to label up each section of racking with stickers so that when it came to re-assemble them the construction would be made easier.

Once we had safely transported our shelves and racking to the Everything Dinosaur warehouse, the next job was to give it all a good clean (hot, soapy water to remove the grease).  We split into two groups, one group, were outside the warehouse washing down the heavy metal legs and cross-pieces that made up the rack frames.  The second group were given the task of wiping down all the shelves.  Since the shelf wipers insisted on using the sinks to do this job, they at least could be inside in the relative warmth.  For the rest of us, we were outside bravely wiping down the surfaces as the snow fell all around us.

With this job done, we then stored all the items, but by Sunday afternoon we had started to set up the new racking system.  Some bays were kept in the warehouse, but we did put up some shelving in the packing area.  It took about 4 hours to complete the job, but by the time we left, every shelf was complete and had already been filled with stock items.

The Woolies Warehouse Racking

Picture Credit: Everything Dinosaur

Although, we are all sad to see the end of Woolworths, and we wish all the staff every success in their job hunting, at least some of the racking in our local branch is being put to good use.  If we look after it, the shelves will last for many years.  We can store our dinosaur toys and gifts on it.  It will also permit us to use the space in our warehouse better, and we know that Sue is already involved in a number of projects to bring new products into our range.

We would like to wish all the staff at Woolworths, the very best of luck with their job hunting.  We were very well looked after when we came to purchase the racking and the staff were most helpful, at what must have been a difficult time for them.  If any employer is looking to take on some hard-working, enthusiastic staff he or she would do well to look carefully at the Woolworths employees as a nicer and knowledgeable staff would be difficult to find.

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