Thursday, 16 July 2009

Was Woolies brought down by 8 year olds?

I wonder where today’s youth are nicking pick & mix and small pieces of stationery from now that Woolworths has shut? Petty theft is a part of growing up – the acquisition of small-value consequential objects driven by a variety of hormonal, social and (anti) authoritative issues. I can remember lifting a blue and white rubber (eraser, not the other kind) when I was about 8 – a daring, petrifying, adrenaline pumping act of irresistible law-defying insanity. In fact, I effectively doubled my risk the next day by taking it back to Woolies and sneaking it back out of the very sleeve that had previously acted as the getaway vehicle.

Woolworths may have respected this nod to growing up’s rite of passage, in the hope that this relatively small loss leader would instil a lifelong guilt-indexed sense of brand loyalty as those 8 year olds became cash-rich twenty-something’s, and then parents themselves – trekking through life with a deferred payback clause buried deep in their sub-conscience. Quite a risk really, considering this lacklustre attitude towards loss-prevention could have the alternative effect of encouraging lifelong shoplifting habits in generations of mainstream society who got addicted to the adrenaline of theft and as a result didn’t grow out of the 8 year old boundary-pushing mindset.

It’s too late to ask the powers that be at the now defunct Woolworths Board whether this was a strategic business decision or just a failure to secure the long tail of stock-drip. In fact, it would be interesting to know if, with that long tail potentially lasting the entire stretch of Woolies commercial existence, whether this was in fact contributory their eventual demise?!

If so, I’m very glad I took the risk of returning my ill-gotten loot – I wouldn’t want to think I had been a part of the downfall of a High Street great, about whom my Granddad always said; “if you can’t buy it in Woolworths, it’s not worth havin’”.