Five big-name stores lost from our high streets

Today there was difficult news for the British high street as it was revealed British Home Stores are on the brink of collapse with a potential loss of up to 11,000 jobs.
Remember Woolworths?Remember Woolworths?
Remember Woolworths?

Staff and customers alike will be holding out for a glimmer of hope amongst the gloom, with a rescue deal or buyout still possible.

The last few decades have been particularly brutal for the retail sector, as failure to keep up with ever-changing consumer habits has proved the death knell for many iconic brands.

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Here are five other big names that have disappeared from our high streets - some from a failure to keep up, while others were simply absorbed or taken over by competitors in the cut-throat world of business.


Fondly remembered for its pick and mix and - by older readers - as the place to get the latest record.

Woolies even had its own record label - Embassy Records - and remained a UK market leader in terms of music sales well into the 1990s, with strong competition from supermarkets such as Tesco and Asda finally encroaching on their position.

Woolworths finally ran into trouble as recently as the late noughties. Between November 2008 and January 2009, 807 stores closed across the UK with a loss of 27,000 jobs.


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But even some supermarkets found the transition into the 21st century too challenging. Safeway was, like Woolworths, originally a subsidiary of an American firm until it was bought by the Argyll Foods group in 1987.

Safeway was the first of the major UK supermarkets to introduce a loyalty card when they brought out their ABC card (Added Bonus Card).

In 2004 Morrisons - until then a relatively minor player compared with Safeway - tabled and had a bid accepted for Morrisons.

Safeway shopfronts began to disappear in favour of the Morrisons brand and other units were offloaded to Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Tesco. By November 2005 the Safeway brand had disappeared from the UK.


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With its iconic blue and yellow logo, Blockbuster was a common sight on UK streets as recently as 2013.

Many a great weekend began with a trip to the video store for a movie, with crisps, fizzy drinks and popcorn usually picked up along the way.

It was a cheap night in - as long as you remembered to rewind the video and return it on time to avoid a 70p late fee!

Home delivery services such as LoveFilm and, more recently, the rise of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime finally killed off Blockbuster in the UK by December 2013 after Blockbuster UK entered administration in January 2013 and failed to find a buyer.

In the US, Blockbuster still maintains 51 stores.

Electronics Boutique

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For today’s 30-somethings raised on Sega Mega Drives and Super Nintendos, Electronics Boutique was a favourite Saturday destination with Mum and Dad.

The ‘console wars’ heated up as cartridges and tapes were abandoned in favour of CD and DVD formats. Graphics got better, gameplay got more advanced and Electronics Boutique remained a common sight on the highstreet and in shopping centres across the country until 2002.

Unlike the other entries on this list, Electronics Boutique didn’t go under. They were rebranded as Game.

Game hasn’t been without its own difficulties however and in 2012 277 of the firm’s 609 UK stores were closed with a loss of 2,104 jobs.

Game still has 328 stores in the UK.

Sports Division

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Set up by Sir Tom Hunter in 1984, with Sir Tom selling trainers out of the back of his van, Sports Division grew to become one of the biggest sports shops in the UK by the 1990s.

The place to go for new football boots, trainers, tracksuits, schoolbags and goalie gloves, it was sold to its main competitor JJB Sports for £295m, before disappearing from British high streets alltogether.

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