Passing through Bristol last week, I stopped into the Habitat at the top of Park Street. When I lived in Bristol, I loved Park Street - there is a lovely quality of light there just before dusk, when all the buildings look especially Italiante and sepia-toned. Sometimes, after going to the posh gym, I would hang out at the Starbucks in Borders Books, then browse the DVDs and books. Borders closed last year and is now opening as a Wilcos. I guess it's better that it opens as something, but there's no fun in browsing a Wilcos. I should know - I used to work nights stacking shelves in the Preston branch, back in 1992. And apart from being the fastest (price)-gun in the (north)west, it was the most dreary job I've ever held. You could never really shift the smell of the place off you, and during Christmas, I must have heard Johnny Mathis's When A Child Is Born hundreds of times. Which tested even my love of irony and kitsch to its breaking point.
To make Park Street even sadder, the Habitat right at top of the street has "closing down sale" signs over everything. All over the country, the Habitats are closing down. Where will the 20 and 30 somethings from social class AB shop now?
I've been shopping in Habitat for the last twenty years. I bought my first lot of proper plates and stuff (the Nil range which still seems to be going strong). I've had a Habitat bed (blue metallic thing which looked like a hospital bed), Habitat garden furniture (not very good quality), Habitat modular sofa (still in my office), Habitat rugs (not good quality), Habitat pictures (Chinese poster for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof also in my office at work), Habitat dining room table and chairs (twice). I think Habitat's success is probably down to me buying all my stuff there, and it's because I switched to John Lewis in 2008 that it's closing down.
With the news showing massive job losses every night, while the cost of living goes up and up, I can only feel hugely lucky that my own experience of the recession is to do with losing some of my favourite shops. And I wish that was the experience of everyone else.