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Comet Safeway Woolworths

Woolworths, Comet and Blockbuster the most missed British high street brands


By Jennifer Faull | Deputy Editor

June 9, 2015 | 3 min read

Almost two thirds (65 per cent) of British shoppers want to see Woolworths, a brand synonymous with CDs, cheap home wear and pick 'n' mix sweets, return to their high streets.

The brand opened its first UK door in 1909 but succumbed to the relentless march of online – as well as the rise of Poundland arriving with promises of cheaper goods – and went into administration in 2008. It has operated an online-only model ever since, but that looks set to change with owner Shop Direct planning to phase it out.

“Like many people I remember the terrific Pick ‘n’ Mix counter, but I’m not sure that alone would be enough to warrant its return,” said Viv Craske, head of digital at Live & Breathe, which conducted the research into 1000 consumers.

“A lot of Brits want to see it back on the high street. That may be in part due to our national love of nostalgia, but it’s also possible that it offered a friendly, welcoming atmosphere that some modern high streets brands have trouble duplicating. That said, it went bust because people weren’t shopping there. It would have to up its game significantly to make an impact on the modern high street,” he continued.

Electrical goods store Comet ranked second with 18 per cent of the vote while Virgin Megastores was third with 16 per cent.

Surprisingly, despite the rise of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Instant Video, Blockbuster Video came in fourth place on the list with 14 per cent of shoppers (including 14 per cent of 18-24-year-olds) stating that wanted to see it come back.

“As e-commerce is 20 years old, younger generations who stream movies have only every known the choice and convenience that e-commerce brings, but they also remember the social experience of going with your friends to the video shop and asking the staff for recommendations,” added Craske.

“No matter how many algorithms a website has to deliver you a perfect viewing selection, viewers miss the social experience of visiting the high street and picking out a movie.”

Rounding off the top five was Safeway, which was missed among 13 per cent of those polled.


The research also delved into the online only brands consumers would like to see on their high streets with Amazon pulling in more than half (53 per cent) of the votes, followed by eBay, Asos and

However, a third (32 per cent) would actually prefer it if no more online retailers went down the ‘bricks and mortar’ route. This rose to 43 per cent of over 55s and dropped to 10 per cent of 16-24 year olds.

“This suggests that many people prefer it if retailers stick with the model they’re good at, and we wonder if online retailers such as Amazon could maintain its margins in physical stores, and whether having limited stock in store would damage the brand.”

Betting shops and gaming arcades proved lease popular, with 61 per cent of people happy if they disappeared. The findings come as Ladbrokes plans for the closure of 60 of its more than 2,000 UK shops.

A third (32 per cent) would also like to see fewer coffee chain brands.

Comet Safeway Woolworths

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