Thursday, 11 December 2008

Woolworths RIP

Woolworths is dying and it's not pretty. The demise of a 93-old High Street name and the consequent closure of some 815 stores and the likely loss of 25,000 or more jobs is making this a bleak Christmas for many families.

But as always one man's loss is another man's gain and the British public has wasted no time today picking over the corpse that is or was Woolworths. There is a "Big W" store in the London Retail Park at Beckton. The traffic in the immediate area is gridlocked and it took me 40 minutes this afternoon to get through.

I wonder if the people I saw with Woolworths bags had given any thought to the fate of the staff or the stores. It's not of course the fault of the store stuff - the failure lies with successive senior managers who have failed to reposition the brand (despite wonderful location) in the face of the growth of supermarkets and specialist retailers.

I hope we don't read of senior directors getting enormous payouts but I suspect we will.

The demise of Woolworths is probably the highest-profile indication of the depth and severity of this recession. The early months of 2009 look set to be brutal in terms of job losses and overall economic gloom but today leaves me deeply troubled.

The Government, understandably, didn't want to see a fully-fledged panic which could well have resulted had one of the main High Street banks failed so bailed out the banks with taxpayers money but the bailout for the bankers hasn't been a bailout for anyone else it would seem.

I'm of the view that we should either be bailing out everyone or no one. The natural market forces of merger and acquisition would have resolved the banking system and left a properly-capitalised more robust system in its place without the taxpayer being lumbered with additional debt for years to come. That said, imagine the scenes had one of the main banks failed - there would have been a serious risk of public disorder.

Life then isn't fair - it's not fair if you work for Woolworths and I choose not to be part of that inequity. I will mourn Woolworths but I won't pick over the corpse.

No comments: