A postcard from Caernarfon’s closed down Woolies

Former Woolworths, Caernarfon (July 2010). Photograph by Sally Daffarn

Former Woolworths, Caernarfon (July 2010). Photograph by Sally Daffarn

I’m not quite sure if it should be a cause for celebration or urgent self-reflection when my friends start emailing over photographs of old Woolworths that they have spotted on their travels… Whichever, many thanks to Sally Daffarn for capturing this shot of the former Woolies in Caernarfon, which she “saw on holiday and thought of you!”

Caernarfon is one of the North East Woolworths sites that I didn’t get to when I was over there in September last year, and it’s interesting to see that it’s still empty and looking a little worse for wear by now. I can only assume that plans to convert the building into two shops, office accommodation and flats – announced in April last year – have fallen through.

For the moment at least, it means that Caernarfon’s Woolworths is one of a dwindling number that are still vacant, more than 18 months on from the retailer’s high profile collapse.

Former Woolworths and Publishers Book Clearance, Llandudno (25 Sep 2009). Photograph by Graham Soult

Former Woolworths and Publishers Book Clearance, Llandudno (25 Sep 2009)

Indeed, of the six North Wales Woolies that I saw in September, four were already reoccupied back then, by Publishers Book Clearance (Llandudno), Home Bargains (Prestatyn), The Original Factory Shop (Porthmadog) and B&M Bargains (Rhyl) – a pretty good snapshot of the types of retailers that have taken over Woolies sites across the UK as a whole.

I understand, however, that Publishers Book Clearance in Llandudno has closed down within the last few days due to the end of its temporary lease. I’m not clear whether any other retailer is lined up to move in. [UPDATE, 21 July 2010: There's a story about the closure of the store in today's North Wales Pioneer, which seems to confirm that no new tenant is in place yet.]

Planned site for The Original Factory Shop in Colwyn Bay (25 Sep 2009). Photograph by Graham Soult

Planned site for The Original Factory Shop in Colwyn Bay (25 Sep 2009)

As for the two old Woolies stores that were empty when I visited – Colwyn Bay and Holyhead – I can’t find any evidence of either being occupied since.

Interestingly, The Original Factory Shop has recently announced plans to open in Colwyn Bay, but on the site of The Litten Tree pub in Station Road (still open when I visited) – despite the firm’s marketing director noting that “we have taken over a lot of the old Woolworths sites across the UK.”

Ethel Austin in Holyhead's Stanley Street, prior to closure (23 Sep 2009). Photograph by Graham Soult

Ethel Austin in Holyhead’s Stanley Street, prior to closure (23 Sep 2009)

Meanwhile, it sounds like Holyhead’s high level of voids – which already included Woolies, Kwik Save and many others – has been further compounded by the loss of its Ethel Austin. However, it’s positive to read that the town is receiving funding from both the EU and the Welsh Assembly Government “in a bid to create jobs, win back shoppers and build on tourism projects”, and that “Anglesey County Council is inviting expressions of interest from those wishing to improve, develop, or occupy vacant premises in Holyhead Town Centre.”

Former Kwik Save, Holyhead (23 Sep 2009). Photograph by Graham Soult

Former Kwik Save, Holyhead (23 Sep 2009)

For all the vacant units, I felt that Holyhead had a great deal of charm and character when I visited last year, and was let down by some really unappealing and neglected buildings. Hopefully initiatives like the one that’s underway can tackle these barriers to investment, helping the town turn the corner, and encouraging it to become the vibrant place that would befit its status as a major ferry gateway into the UK.

4 Responses to “A postcard from Caernarfon’s closed down Woolies”

  1. Soult's Retail View» Blog Archive » Alworths comes to Llandudno said:

    Jul 22, 10 at 12:42

    [...] that’s a coincidence. Having blogged about the former Woolworths in Llandudno just a couple of days ago, Alworths has announced today that it will be taking over the site for [...]

  2. Soult's Retail View» Blog Archive » The Original Factory Shop in Morpeth – a shift towards more upmarket locations? said:

    Jul 28, 10 at 19:40

    [...] of new store locations. As I blogged last week, Colwyn Bay is set to get an Original Factory Shop in a former pub (with an opening date of 31 August now announced), while the established store in Prudhoe – [...]

  3. Soult's Retail View » Over to you – your ex-Woolies pics from Warrington, Batley and Beverley said:

    Feb 07, 11 at 16:44

    [...] pleased when friends and colleagues help me out by snapping the occasional ex-Woolies that they spot while out on their travels. Happily, the M62 corridor provides a convenient thread for linking together the latest three [...]

  4. Soult's Retail View » Cumbria’s 100% hit rate of new Woolies tenants said:

    Dec 10, 11 at 13:24

    [...] a long-empty Woolies can be reoccupied without having to resort to carving it up. Back in July, I blogged about how the store – #417, and opened as a Woolies at almost exactly the same time as [...]


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