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The high street stores we've loved and lost from C&A to Woolworths


Woolworths branches closed (Image: Hull Daily Mail)

The Great British high street has seen a lot of change over the years, with some big name brands now resigned to the history books.

The likes of Blockbuster, Woolworths, and Toys R Us were once dominant names at the forefront of the British shopping scene. But the increase of internet shopping and rise in streaming platforms has changed the way we use retail outlets.

Wilko became the latest large name retailer to enter into administration, with a host of stores set to be converted into Poundland and B&M branches. According to the GMB union, the last Wilko will close on October 8.

In an open letter to shoppers, CEO Mark Jackson said: ” We’ve all fought hard to keep this incredible business intact but must concede that time has run out, and now we must do what’s best to preserve as many jobs as possible, for as long as is possible, by working with our appointed administrators.”

Here’s a look back at some of the beloved brands that have disappeared from the UK high streets in recent years.

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Blockbuster in Harborne

Blockbuster in Harborne (Image: Reach)

Blockbuster Video

Having first opened in the United Kingdom in 1989, Blockbuster operated around 800 stores at the height of its popularity, becoming Britain’s go-to for the latest video and DVD releases as well as games and more. It closed its doors for the final time however in December 2013.

The rise of video streaming platforms such as Netflix, which grew from mail-order video, was widely regarded as the chain’s downfall. A pop-up Blockbuster was used to promote Ryan Reynold’s Deadpool 2 in 2018.

Woolworths in Hull

Woolworths in Hull was among those to close (Image: Hull Daily Mail)


Woolworths, or Woolies as it was affectionately known, was considered a behemoth of the British high street. In its heyday it had over 800 stores up and down the country.

A popular hit with youngsters for its pick ‘n’ mix, it was sold a range of products from toys to homeware. But it hit financial difficulties in during the 2008 global financial crisis.

In December 2008, it announced all of its 807 stores would close, at a cost of 27,000 jobs. It disappeared from the UK high street scene for good on January 6 2009, when 199 stores closed.

C&A in Nottingham

C&A in Nottingham was among those to close (Image: Nottingham Post)


Fashion retailer C&A closed all of its 113 UK stores, cutting around 4,800 jobs just after the turn of the millenium. The company said its profits had been hit by a downturn in the UK clothing market.

At the time it said it was sitting in the “middle market” along with retailers BHS and Marks and Spencer. Reports at the time said it also faced stiff competition from Next and GAP.

While it retains a physical presence in Europe, the retailer said in 2021 that it wanted to focus on online sales.

Debenhams Stoke-on-Trent

Debenhams in Stoke-on-Trent’s Potteries Centre was among those to close (Image: Stoke Sentinel)


Retail giant Debenhams had been trade for 242 years when it closed up for the final time in 2021. Founded in London in 1778, the closure was seen as a big blow for the retail sector.

Having struggled against a declining high street scene for a number of years, bosses said the coronavirus pandemic and successive lockdowns had a big impact on takings.

While the name disappeared from the high street, the Debenhams brand however lives on, with retailer Boohoo buying the online presence.

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Toys R Us

Toys R Us had over 100 branches (Image: WalesOnline/Gayle Marsh)

Toys R Us

A haven for children, a trip to Toys R Us was akin to flicking through the Argos catalogue – only in real life. At its peak the brand had over 100 stores across the United Kingdom.

But it fell into financial difficulties on UK soil in 2017, reporting that it was closing an initial 26 stores as part of an insolvency restructuring. Months later, without a prospective buyer, it confirmed it was to close all of the stores.

Branches were closed in April 2018. Fans had hoped for a revival in 2021, when it began offering purchases through its Australian arm, although a physical store has not hit UK soil once more.


Mothercare closed in 2020 (Image: Graham Young/Birmingham Mail)


Mothercare specialised in products for mums and expectant parents. At its peak it had around 150 stores across the UK, but that number had dropped to just 79 in 2019.

It was a mainstay of high streets, out-of-town retail parks, and even operated an online wing. It first announced a raft of closures in 2018 as part of a company voluntary arrangement. Its Early Learning Centre brand was sold to The Entertainer in 2019.

It shut after almost 60 years in 2020. The brand however continues online via Boots.


Gamestation disappeared from UK high streets (Image: Birmingham Post and Mail)


Gamestation served gamers for over two decades. The specialist retailer had 64 shops across the United Kingdom, peaking during the heigh of Playstation 2 sales.

It was initially purchased by the Blockbuster chain during the gaming boom, before being sold once more to rival retailer Game. In 2012, the brand disappeared, merged with Game, which was sold to the Frasers Group in 2019.



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