Hot off the press is the news that Waitrose has taken over some Woolworths sites, including one in Islington. I’m assuming that this is the big Woolworths in Chapel Market/Liverpool Road at the Angel, not the one at Archway.
Everyone loves Waitrose don’t they – all the lovely food, ethical sourcing, partnership schemes, and relatively uncrowded stores. What could fit better with the outside world’s perception of small l liberal Islington than a Waitrose. Surely good news? Maybe not.
So why am I worried? Firstly, the Woolworths site is already sandwiched (no pun intended) between an expanded Marks & Spencers foodstore, and a large Sainsburys. Any independent food vendors, whether shops or the stalls in Chapel Market, who’ve survived competition from those two may yet fail with Waitrose on the scene too. Do we want that?
There is already a perfectly fine Waitrose at Nags Head, Holloway, a short bus-ride from the Angel, with a large car-park. Waitrose have obviously decided their business can survive with a second outlet in the borough, but what about their Nags Head neighbours? If Waitrose shoppers from N1 no longer go to Holloway, then the other shops there will lose out.
And what about Woolworths? It’s not Waitrose’s fault if Woolworths chose to sell up this site but not everyone in Islington falls into the Waitrose demographic. Woolworths is always heaving because it provides a lot of goods that Islington families appreciate: popular toys, kids’ clothes, home ware, music and DVDs, all at affordable prices. Their pink fairy wand with a flashing star wasn’t exactly my taste but proved a big hit for my niece’s birthday. I’ve picked up everything from tea towels to tools there, and while I can afford to switch to Waitrose; not everyone can. Where are those customers supposed to go when Woolworths closes?
So yes, I may enjoy the occasional bottle of Waitrose bubbly. But no, I won’t be opening any to celebrate this particular development.