'£5 off': At last the shops have a popular label everything must go

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Closing down an entire retail chain creates quite an industry. At the C&A branch in Manchester's Arndale Centre, staff could barely mark the children's wear down to half price fast enough yesterday.

Closing down an entire retail chain creates quite an industry. At the C&A branch in Manchester's Arndale Centre, staff could barely mark the children's wear down to half price fast enough yesterday.

The entire children's section was moved from a higher floor to its current cramped location at ground level weeks ago, and some anonymous store signs now state: "We have reorganised." The writing, it seems, was on the wall.

"Yes, all the stores - right across the country," a store assistant wearing her rather jaded, C&A-issue green waistcoat and white blouse, told an elderly man. She worked as she talked, stabbing "£5" stickers on to £10 Mickey Mouse T-shirts and making good the two hours which had been lost while the store management broke the news. The store, like all 109 which are to close nationwide, had not opened its doors until 11am.

By then, customer Ted Hughes, 78, knew too. "Heard it on the wireless," he said. "There'll be a few through today looking for a bargain, I bet."

Mr Hughes, whose age was fairly representative of those in the store yesterday morning, appeared to be the definitive "Man at C&A". "Ties, shirts, underpants, even hats," he said, detailing past C&A purchases and nodding down at an immaculate blue polka dot tie.

"You look at Littlewoods and it's empty. Makes you wonder why're they closing this."

Later investigation disproved his theory. The more spacious aisles of Littlewoods, across an Arndale walkway, were busier. Littlewoods, like C&A, is marketing beach shorts as a Father's Day "Gift for Dad". For a young father, neither store's pair represents the height of beach cool, but Littlewoods £12 Berketex line is £3 cheaper and considerably safer in terms of style than C&A's wild floral patterns.

Evelyn Blower, 66, who was rooting through the C&A children's T-shirts, admitted the store was reaching the end of its life for her grandchildren.

"After they're six, it has to be Mark One (a more fashionable store nearby). They're only interested in the labels."

The C&A "fashion finder" map pointed customers to brands like Angelo Litrius and Canda but racks of £35 jackets and £9 short-sleeve tops were deserted. "There's a lot I could say but I won't," said one of the store's loyal managers, who refused to allow The Independent to speak to his staff - and later customers - in the store.

There had been talk of a refit to the store which would have put it somewhere in keeping with Marks & Spencer, the £85m centrepiece of the Arndale's recreation after an IRA bomb four years ago. It never happened and the store's exterior retains the same mud-brown tiles that it had in 1978, when it became one of the first retailers to occupy the Arndale a year after the mall opened.

It should be braced for a final sales rush this weekend. "I'll have another look for some bargains on Saturday, " said Joanne Hardy, 27, shopping with children Dale, five, and Jade, two. Dale, sporting Adidas and Nike clothes, is fashion conscious already. "He won't put up with much less than Next," said his mother.

Comments