Friday, January 30, 2009

Zavvi . . . going going...

Despite hanging on for a while, the Canterbury branch of Zavvi was on yesterday's list of 15 stores to be closed immediately. Another 13 local jobs, another gap in a shopping centre to join USC, Adams and one or two others (and Woolworths of course). And the Canterbury branch of Whittards is now closed and empty, following the purchase of the chain by Past Times (just 100 yards away). With the snow whirling in from the East next week, it's looking like it's going to be a cold hard February in the high street.

And yet Subway has announced 6,000 new jobs at 700 new stores across the UK and Ireland. Oh I see, "if it can find willing franchisees" - so it's not their money at all. Still, there may be some people with redundancy money and enough energy to make a go of it... And Asda is opening 14 new stores this year. We'll still need to buy food, clearly, even if DVDs and teapots are superfluous...

Seaside Postcard 102 - grizzling

Ramsgate seaside postcard Yet another slightly sad postcard, almost reflecting how we felt last October - I say almost, because we were looking forward to Canterbury, but we'd certainly enjoyed living in Ramsgate.

This card was sent by Rene to her Aunty and Uncle in Fulham in August 1920. Obviously a classic seaside holiday: "A line to let you know I am having a fine time. Motor and donkey rides also boat rides. Thanks for photos, writing on sands. Love to all." And designed by the great Donald McGill. What more could you ask from a postcard?

And the 5 day forecast on the BBC shows a sunny Saturday, then snow on Sunday, heavy snow on Monday and Tuesday. Brrrr...

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Canterbury - and so it starts

Well we've been in Canterbury for 3 months as of today. So to mark the occasion, here's a postcard. Very few comic postcards here (it's not at the seaside, and it's not funny, the card as well as the city!) but I'll do my best. Obviously visitors to Canterbury are expected to have higher matters on their agenda, although of course day trips by charabanc were a regular part of the seaside holiday too.

Canterbury Bus

This Valentine's pop-out card was sent by Phyllis on June 10th 1953, so presumably both the sender and recipient were basking in the glow of the coronation just a week earlier (June 2nd). The 1976 on the card is just the printer's code rather than the date. Sent all the way to Dover, it's a classic: "The weather is lovely. Having a nice time. Be home Sunday if alls well". No riotous larks here then. A nice set of black and white photos (mostly of the cathedral of course) make it a good souvenir of the trip.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Seaside Postcard 101 - same old story...

Ramsgate seaside postcardAnother gap, another posting. It's suprising how moving house interrupts the mental processes. I've still got quite a few seaside postcards to share, and I'll try to get themmup more regularly. One thing I've noticed since our October move to Canterbury - Thanet is much better served for blogs and papers. We seem to have just the single local paper now (plus an occasional AdScene) on Thursday, as well as the Wednesday freebie. And as for blogs, well I'm still looking for the Canterbury blogging community...

Anyway, here's another sad-looking card, sent to Lily in Lowestoft in 1913. Well we all know that feeling don't we...

And work is very quiet due to all our open access PCs being off for 10 days. How hard can it be to keep virus protection up to date when you have a full time team whose only job is to keep a network operative. Sigh.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Wondering at the Waste of Woolies

The last Woolworths store has now closed, leaving a gaping hole in the high street. I think it caught many people by surprise to realise how much they would miss a shop in to which they rarely ventured.Somehow just knowing there was a Woolworths nearby was weirdly comforting, even if we had mostly switched our allegiances to Wilkinsons, HMV, Peacocks and the supermarkets.

More to the point, was the closure necessary? Offers were made and rejected that would have taken over the whole chain, although presumably some stores would still have closed in that process. But look at the astonishing fees that the administrators pay themselves (£50 million was one figure I saw before Christmas, one article reporting that Deloittes are charging £22,000 per hour). And the banks that lent money to Woolworths not only get all their money as they were secured creditors, but they will get penalty fees on top - legal, but maybe an incentive to hasten the closure rather than look for a trading solution.

Add that to the cost to the economy of the loss of business taxes, the cost of support and benefits for the newly unemployed staff, the costs of those businesses that will now struggle or collapse with the loss of such a major outlet (not to mention the write-offs of their unpaid bills to Woolworths) - add that lot to the best of the offers received when the chain was open, and if the total is higher than the final value realised by selling off the leases piecemeal, then the administrators should be made to pay the difference. It's quite hard to see how it is in their interest to find a quick and tidy solution when they're being paid hundreds of thousands of pounds a day to evaluate, consider and reject offers as all the options evaporate one by one.

Sadly it feels like the people who we imagine were trying to rescue the chain - administrators, banks etc - have their snouts too deep in the trough to even consider anything other than their own winnings. Just my opinion...

Iceland had made an offer for the whole chain in August, rejected as insufficient. So now they are left with cherry-picking 50 or so sites to turn in to their own outlets - Broadstairs, Herne Bay and Whitstable included. But what a wasted opportunity. And Margate, Ramsgate, Canterbury, Faversham and all the others will just have to live with the uncertainty of what will happen to that gap in the high street.

The picture below shows Canterbury's store on its last day. Tragic.
Canterbury Woolworths

This is the full list of the stores bought by Iceland: Alton, Barnsley, Belper, Bethnal Green, Bexhill On Sea, Bicester, Billericay, Blandford Forum, Bodmin, Boreham Wood, Bow, Braintree, Broadstairs, Devizes, Exmouth, Fraserburgh, Frome, Greenford, Hackney, Hailsham, Harold Hill, Haverhill, Herne Bay, Hexham, Highgate, Honiton, Kilburn High Road, Leyton, Malvern, Matlock, Mill Hill, Minehead, Monmouth, Morpeth, Morriston, Newtownards, Palmers Green, Pinner (Rayner's Lane), Palmers Green, Plumstead, Pontypool, Poplar, Portslade, Ringwood, St Neots, Stoke Newington, Strood, Sudbury, Swaffham, Wakefield, Wallington, Whitstable

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Seaside Postcard 100 - grandad's trousers

ramsgate seaside postcard A nice card this, posted by Eileen in 1925 to her Grandad with the message - "Dear Grandad, I found these trousers on the sands are they yours. They are not very smart so I do not think they are. I am going down to bathe in a minute. Thank you for the money you sent me." There, properly respectful (she know's he's smartly turned out), properly grateful (he's obviously a generous type) and generally lovely. Aaah.

And this is the 100th (but far from the last) card in my seemingly endless series of Ramsgate comic postcards. Watch this space.