This article has no real purpose, except that I just wanted to do it. I’m sure that when I used to actually go to these shops as a protesting, mullet-haired kid, they were mostly just boring. Now that I’ve grown up, these shops have become things of wonder – legendary relics of the past whose stories will be told round campfires for generations to come.
Andy’s Records/Our Price
I was a bit of a music nerd when I was a teenager, so a lot of my Saturdays would be spent happily browsing the CDs in the Doncaster branches of the above shops. Activities included trying to find some Radiohead import I didn’t already have, or spending my entire week’s worth of pocket money on a CD I’d never heard of, because the cover looked vaguely interesting. I decided these CDs would look good on my bedroom shelf, so I bought them in case I ever made any friends and they ever came round to look at my CDs.
If you’re interested, the rest of my weekend was usually spent writing shit emo poetry on the computer, which I would then save to floppy disks, much to the annoyance of my parents, who paid for the floppy disks.
While HMV was always full of chavs wearing Kickers and Adidas tracksuits, Our Price, and in particular Andy’s records, seemed to cater for a more refined class of person (me).
Of course, these shops had listening posts too, which was good if you wanted to pass some time in town. Although I was always too shy to ask for the particular albums I wanted to play, so I’d just stand there listening to whatever was being promoted that week. This was usually something like Coolio.
If you’re too young to know about listening posts, they were kind of like scratching posts, only with headphones attached.
Baked goods royalty, until the franchise was kicked off the planet by the vile Greggs. I write about Bakers Oven in far too much detail here. Suffice to say they did the best sausage rolls in the world. They also did proper chocolate ‘thick shakes’, rather than that horrible Crusha nonsense.
Fondly remembered for its ‘Clockhouse’ range of young adult clothing. Also fondly remembered for my mother dragging me round the store, looking at bras. There were always lots of bras in C&A. And those nightie/slip things that no one ever seems to wear these days.
C&A is still going in website form, only you have to be able to speak any language apart from English to be able to order anything from there. This rules me out, since I can only say ‘Je suis un pantalon’ with any degree of confidence.
Do It All
This is definitely one of those shops that looks better through nostalgia goggles, because I hate DIY stores. The name was a lie – you certainly could not ‘do it all’, you couldn’t do anything except trail round after your parents, who had your hand in their vice like grip. Anything other than ‘being good’ would result in not having the promised visit to the toy shop afterwards, which never bloody happened anyway.
After a seemingly endless chain of rebranding and new ownership, it would appear that Do It All is now Wickes. Now I’m an adult I could go to Wickes and mess about, but it probably wouldn’t be the same.
Kwik Save still technically exists today, in small convenience store format, but Kwik Save proper disbanded in the 90s, after a weird merger with Somerfield.
The original Kwik Saves are famous for two things. Firstly, the flaps. Anyone who visited a Kwik Save in its heyday will require no further explanation. The flaps were the flaps. Full stop.
For those who missed out on the heady flaps experience, they were big, heavy polythene flaps that separated the chiller aisle from everything else. For some reason. Great fun to be had as a kid pretending the flaps were a magic entrance to a secret bit of Kwik Save, even if that secret bit only had milk in it.
Secondly, Kwik Save was famous for its ‘No Frills’ range. This range included things like tins of beans that contained approximately seven beans, pop that needed you to fart in it to give it any sort of fizz, and other innovative products.
Kwik Save, but without the flaps. When I was in primary school, one boy had the piss taken out of him by the class for an entire week, because we found out his dad had worked on building our local Netto store.
If you wanted to rent a video recorder, this was the place to go. Unless you went to Radio Rentals, or knew someone who was a bit dodgy.
The best thing about Rumbelows, according to the advert, was that all the appliances were alive.
Before Ikea took over the world with their meatballs and their cabinets called ‘Steve’ and ‘Radish’, MFI was the place to go for cheap flat-pack furniture. Approximately 87% of teenage bedrooms in the 80s and 90s were kitted out entirely with MFI furniture, in ‘Blackash’ or that weird shiny white plastic stuff.
True story – when the mister was little, he couldn’t grasp the fact that MFI and MI5 weren’t the same thing, and as a result was convinced that MFI “sold secrets”.
Like other shops on this list, MFI has made something of an online comeback, but I’m not too bothered about this, since I have no need for a cabin bed or a hi-fi display unit.
The king of defunct shops, Woolworths is mourned by everyone in the UK. Here’s a picture of a Woolworths bin we saw in a museum a few years ago –
Where do I start with Woolies? It probably deserves its own article, and might get one in the future. For now, let me mention the Pick ‘n’ Mix, grubby from being pawed by countless unseen hands of previous shoppers. This, of course, didn’t include the foil wrapped Quality Street style chocolates, which were always my favourites. Let me also mention the music section, which was many kids’ first foray into buying music for themselves, and the reason I ended up buying Baby Come Back by UB40 and Pato Banton on cassette.
Woolworths was also a pioneer of the home video market, teaming up with K-Tel to sell ‘The Video Collection’. Thanks to this move, you could own such classics as the Mr T cartoon series, or some black and white films you’d never heard of.
I can’t really do Woolworths justice here, so let me finish by directing you to this Woolworths museum I found.