Mourning the loss of Palmers - but we’re all to blame for not using these stores anymore

PUBLISHED: 09:03 20 February 2020 | UPDATED: 09:38 21 February 2020

Palmers in Great Yarmouth is closing after 180 years

Palmers in Great Yarmouth is closing after 180 years


The demise of another department store is sad, says Rachel Moore, but then aren’t we all to blame for not using them and shopping online instead?

Windows of the department store that has been the heartbeat of Great Yarmouth town centre for 180 years are plastered with "closing down" sale posters.

The death knell sounded for the beacon for quality goods and gold-standard customer service on Tuesday when "Palmers", as it's still known locally, was on the list of closures announced its administration-hit owner since 2018, Beales

I was in "Palmers" on Friday, meeting friends for lunch.

"I really want to go to Palmers coffee shop," one had emailed that morning, explaining the pull of nostalgia to make the most of store where she had "grown up" and still shopped often, but not often enough.

The three of us made the pilgrimage through the sale rails and up the stairs.

It took a while, distracted by the great stock, the stuff we'd never really noticed when we dashed in to buy a lipstick or birthday present - the Moroccan-style painted bowls, the Smeg appliances, Denby kitchenware and stylish glassware.

On their way through, my friends spotted a coat that had my "name on it," reduced from £300 to £90. It sure did, like much else of their women's wear I'd never noticed.

The coffee shop was rammed. It took a while to find a table. Like the good old days at 12.30pm on a Friday, people queued.

There was great service for our tasty toasties, jacket potatoes and coffee and the bustle felt like the store was enjoying its heyday.

We felt so guilty, about taking for granted something that had become part of the town centre wallpaper, for the jobs threatened - those people behind the counter have families and mortgages - and for not thinking more about where we spent our money.

Stores such as "Palmers", Debenhams and House of Fraser have been described as outdated retail models, old-fashioned and ignoring investment and innovation to make their customers' experience more entertaining and unique.

But with so many brands under one roof, catering for all tastes and budgets, it is like a mini internet. There's something for everyone, but it's still not enough.

That night, I listed everything I'd bought since Christmas and where I'd bought them. Every item - coffee machine, cosmetics, underwear, kitchenware, glasses and gifts for friends - were stocked in "Palmers", but I'd bought either online, in Norwich or at the retail park closest to my office where I can park outside and nip in.

My only purchase this year at "Palmers" ended up to be an impulse Valentine's gift on Friday, which was so perfect I could have scoured the internet for a year and not found what was there under my nose on the first floor.

We required "convenience" for our shopping habits, but how much more convenient can a town centre store be with a car park behind it?

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And it ticks all the quality and sustainability boxes most of us want, but younger shoppers wouldn't be seen dead in department stores, wanting cheaper fast fashion.

They don't appreciate their charm, seeing them as drab and decaying, each one a homage to the vintage TV series, Are You Being Served, every one with their very own Mrs Slocombes, Captain Peacocks and Mr Humphries.

We might lament the withering of our high street, as town centres become a depressing mix of empty units and charity shops, but we have killed it.

Feeling nostalgic and sad about the loss of "Palmers", and "Chadds", as Beales is still known in Lowestoft, is all very well, but nostalgia doesn't pay staff.

Taking these stores for granted and shopping online and at retail parks for convenience, and not thinking through the effects of ignoring the high street "wallpaper" department store has killed this retail model for good.

Once it's gone, it's gone, and we sure will miss it.

Hospital is no family trip:

It's nine years since I was a regular outpatient at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, now back again regularly the volume of people there every day is astounding.

Everywhere on the site is a swarm of bodies, waiting rooms and seating areas full to bursting, queues for lifts and the entrances and exits a constant sea of people in and out from early morning to evening.

What's struck me as particularly peculiar is the number of people accompanying each patient. Families seem to view a hospital appointment as a day out for everyone.

They arrive en masse, with snacks, commandeer multiple seats, take the long wait as an excuse for a big family catch-up, noisily, and get over-excited about the opportunities posed by a trip to the hospital café.

And they all troop in to see the doctor together, who must feel it's more like delivering a lecture to a group rather than a one-one consultation.

Not all these patients en famille are elderly either.

On my latest visit this week, it dawned on me that I was the only lone patient in the packed waiting room for the three hours I was there.

Billy no mates. But it wouldn't occur to me to take anyone with me for an appointment, unless it was likely to be upsetting and needed another pair of ears to take in information.

And weren't all these patient companions with their crisps and fizzy drinks at work?

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