Shropshire Star

In pictures: Shropshire Woolworths stores on their last days 15 years ago and what’s happened since

Even as bargain hunters plundered the fixtures and fittings, few people really thought it was the end.

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Shoppers enter the Woolworths store in Oswestry for the last time

The record shelves were empty, the pick 'n' mix counters ran dry. But surely a buyer would step in at the last minute? Christmas without Woolworths? It just didn't seem possible.

It is 15 years since the once-ubiquitous budget department store chain closed its doors for the last time. And even then, many people clung to hopes that it would soon be revived.

The chain, which originated in the United States, before spreading around the world, arrived in the UK in November 1909. Posters celebrating the company's centenary in the UK had already been printed.

The last days at Woolworths in Castle Street, Shrewsbury
Staff at the Market Drayton branch of Woolworths on their last day of trading, with even the shelves of the shop up for sale

The closures took place in waves over a period of 11 days, beginning on December 27, 2008, and continuing through to January 6, 2009. The final day had been due to be January 5, but it was decided to give the last few stores a 24-hour reprieve to shift a bit more stock.

Ironically, December 5 ­– the first day of the Woolworths closing-down sale – was the busiest in its history, taking £27 million in sales. The tills continued to ring out right up to the end, and months after the stores had gone, speculation continued to mount about some kind of revival.

Woolworths in Market Drayton during the closing-down sale
Wellington branch on its last day of trading, January 3, 2009

The fact that Woolworths was closing at Christmas seemed all the more ironic, given that it was a time of year the chain had always been associated with. In the 1970s, its brash Christmas television adverts, featuring stars such as Henry Cooper, Stirling Moss, Tony Blackburn and Magnus Pyke, were a staple of the festive season.

The demise of Woolworths marked the beginning of a sea-change on the high street, and the years that followed would see the disappearance of many other famous names. It also left a big hole in our towns, as large shop units suddenly became vacant.

Here we look at what has happened to some of the branches in our region over the past 15 years.

Shoppers outside Woolworths in Market Drayton shortly before it opened for the last time
The Peacocks fashion chain took over Market Drayton branch

High Street, Market Drayton: Market Drayton was relatively late to the Woolworths party, not getting its branch until 1938. It remained in the town until December 2008, and was later converted into a branch of the fashion retailer Peacocks.