How will we cope without Boots? But if it goes, it's our own fault
PUBLISHED: 11:28 29 May 2019 | UPDATED: 13:00 29 May 2019
Rachel Moore says Boots is the heart of the high street. And its loss will be the beginning of a high street Armageddon
When everyone's favourite chemist announces shop closures and job losses, you know the final bell is tolling for the end of the high street as we know it.
Boots. A town centre without a branch would have been unthinkable a decade ago.
But Boots the Chemist, as it was once proudly known, is looking to close up to 200 shops in the next two years with hundreds of people losing their jobs.
A victim of the changes in our shopping habits, the once go-to for everything cosmetic, medicinal, baby and personal hygiene, Boots is being squeezed by the discounters and the Why Pay More? trend.
And why would you? Paying £3.50 for toothpaste that you can pick it up in Savers, Poundland, B&M and Home Bargains for £1 feels like madness. Even staff discount doesn't make it worth it.
Snobbery about where we shop dissolved with the discovery of the gems that are Aldi and Lidl - great quality, choice and value, all in a prime-sized store. You can pop in without needing a compass, map and two hours to orientate your way around a giant hangar-like store.
A review is taking place of Boots' 2500 shops in a £1bn cost cutting by its US parent company - even the fact that it's owned by an American company makes me sad for the Nottingham-founded company.
Boots has always held a big place in my heart and, as much as I could, I've remained loyal (its loyalty card is one of the best around and racks up the point faster than any other I know.)
It was my first employer. As a 16-year-old in 1980, I started my Saturday job on the cosmetics counter at the front of the Lowestoft shop, where it still is today.
There, I learned the importance of good customer service, serving the women of Lowestoft their Boots No 7 Plum Beautiful lipsticks and Max Factor pancake foundations.
On Saturdays, and full-time in holidays, I learned the basics of retail, made friends - there is a real team spirit in shop workers that I'd never encountered before - and learned an iron burned crimplene in seconds. Those beware-a-naked-flame tunic and blouse uniforms were designed to drip dry.
Boots paid me my first wages, picked up every Saturday in a brown envelope, that I would save to take to Norwich to splurge on New Romantic knickerbockers and pixie boots in Snob and Top Shop.
For years, I remained loyal, never dreaming of setting foot into a discount store. But even I succumbed to the higher end brand shampoos and beauty products cheaper in B&M and TK Maxx
Boots' store cull will focus on areas with multiple stores - Great Yarmouth has two, one in the town centre and the other on rapidly expanding Gapton Hall retail park where, inexplicably, a Superdrug has just opened next door but one.
My money is on the closure of the town centre store, leaving a gaping hole at the entrance to Market Gates - like missing front teeth in a desperate grimace.
We blame soaring shop rents and rates, but we all have the blood of the high street on our hands.
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We shop differently. Quick and convenient is key - parking outside (we're so lazy) to nip in and grab what we want, then stop for a coffee and a snack. Who ever dreamed we'd have days out at out of town retail parks? As sad as it sounds, it's a fact.
A friend visited Boots' home city of Nottingham recently and was shocked by how deserted the city centre was.
Norwich's retains its footfall by its jewel and real draw, the market. I wonder, without it, if the Gentleman's Walk business would be a fraction of what it is.
Boots' profits have been seriously hit by £100m with falling sales by more than 2% last year.
I sigh with resigned sadness, but in the last week my two Amazon prime deliveries, online clothes retailer delivery and parcels from eBay tell the story better than anything.
The number of shops lying empty soared by more than 7,500 last year.
In my village, both banks now lie empty, which is good news for our fabulous Post Office, if no one else.
In the old Carluccio's in Norwich's Chapelfield, a Mercedes 'shop' now stands - or rather a space with a luxury car and Mercedes merchandise.
I shudder to think what will be in our town and city centres a decade from now.
Well done MacKenzie Bezos
She maybe the world's third richest woman, but I have nothing but love for the ex-wife of founder and chief executive Jeff Bezos, MacKenzie.
She might have no need for a lunchtime B&M dash, but she has pledged half her £35bn fortune to charity in the Giving Pledge along with 18 other super-rich with hearts.
She said: "We each come by the gifts we have to offer by an infinite series of influences and lucky breaks we can never fully understand."
"In addition to whatever assets life has nurtured in me, I have a disproportionate amount of money to share." Standing ovation.
Interesting to see if her husband does the same.