Cardiff city centre’s lost Woolworths
Paying my first visit to Cardiff in twenty years last week, I couldn’t resist tracking down the city centre’s former Woolworths locations – despite the torrential rain making conditions for photography somewhat challenging.
Cardiff still had several Woolworths branches outside the centre at the time of Woolworths’ collapse, in Cowbridge Road East (store #440), Albany Road (#476), Clifton Street (#484) and Llanrumney (#962). Woolies’ presence in the city centre, however, had come to an end some years earlier.
Opened in summer 1913, Cardiff’s original Woolworths (#25) was at 50-54 Queen Street, and was subject to many extensions and alterations over the years, including gaining an entrance to the then-new St David’s Shopping Centre in the early 1980s. However, like Leeds (#5), Edinburgh (#213) and many of the other city-centre flagships that I’ve blogged about before, the store was an early disposal by Kingfisher following its takeover of the business, closing its doors in about 1985.
Trading today as BHS, the building is nonetheless virtually unchanged from its Woolworths days. Indeed, look at the frontage from the right angle (above) and you can still spot the traces of the original ‘Woolworth’ lettering, as clearly shown in the 1960s view at 100thBirthday.co.uk.
In the 1990s and 2000s, Woolworths made a habit of reopening in towns and cities that it had previously abandoned, and Cardiff is no exception. After several years away, the chain returned to a site not far from its original spot on 26 July 1990, opening one of the small-format Music & Video stores (#1164) that had already launched in locations such as Middlesbrough and Metrocentre.
Tracking this one down was a little harder, given that the address given in Woolworths’ records – 63-64 St Davids Way – no longer exists following the impressive transformation and extension of St David’s a few years ago. However, two different sources have pinpointed the location to opposite today’s That’s Entertainment, in what are now two of the shopping centre’s very few empty units (one the inevitable ex-Birthdays).
I don’t have a closure date for this store, though it was still trading at the time of Woolworths’ 1995 store list, a point when most of the other Music & Video branches had already shut (including both Middlesbrough and Metrocentre, in 1994). It’s hard to imagine, therefore, that it lasted much beyond that. [UPDATE, 21 August 2012: According to a reliable source in the 'Comments' section below, it was still around in summer 2001.]
While Woolworths later returned once more to Metrocentre and Middlesbrough – opening a larger store again in both locations – the Music & Video shop was, as far as I’m aware, Woolies’ last attempt to crack Cardiff city centre. Though anyone passing that site today is likely unware to be unaware of its Woolworths heritage, the nearby BHS store at least provides a more visible reminder of Woolies’ once-important position within Cardiff’s retail centre.
My retail consultancy business, CannyInsights.com, provides bespoke place- and sector-specific market intelligence, including coverage of South Wales and ex-Woolworths locations. It also works with retailers nationwide to improve their stores, customer communications and market knowledge. For more information, visit www.cannyinsights.com, drop me an email, or give me a call on (0191) 461 0361.