Which lost brands should be reintroduced to the high street?

As HSBC plots the return of Midland in a rebranding exercise, designers mull over which brands they’d like to see return to the UK high street.

Graham Shearsby, executive creative director, Design Bridge
Graham Shearsby, chief creative officer, Design Bridge

“I grew up in the mid-’60s in East London, above my father’s sweetshop in Kingsland Road Dalston, so I have very fond memories of vibrant high streets and street markets. Our neighbours were all family-owned, independent businesses. Mitchell’s Fishing Tackle, Conicks Menswear, F Cookes Jellied Eels and Arthur’s Cafe, to name a few. We even had a local department store, Dudleys for fine haberdashery and drapery, and the facade still survives. But the one shop the young and old visited daily was F W Woolworths, an emporium of cheap and cheerful staples. Light bulbs, plimsoles, your school shirts, Airfix kits, ironmongery and pick ‘n’ mix, the go-to purveyor of most things you needed in those simpler times. The brand was a shadow of its former self by the time of its demise, but it was still the most saddening loss from the high street. Times have changed, but I would love to see a rebooted, well-considered Woolies back where it belongs.”


Stephen Bell, executive creative director, Coley Porter Bell
Stephen Bell, executive creative director, Coley Porter Bell

“I would revive Borders as I am still mourning the loss. I loved it’s American ‘west coast’ easy going vibe and it’s extensive collections of magazines, books, CDs and DVDs all under one roof. Don’t get me wrong, I love the convenience of Amazon and iTunes but they are more about a transaction than an experience. In Borders I could wander around with no particular purchase in mind and have the joy of discovering something that would make me happy and I would be accompanied by the mixed smells of paper, coffee and wood, some cool music and on one occasion Joan Baez singing live. Nothing has quite replaced it.”


Paul Taylor, executive creative director, BrandOpus
Paul Taylor, executive creative director, BrandOpus

“In the week that their online presence has disappeared in the transition to very.co.uk, I feel that it is only right to make the case for Woolworths. Excuse the nostalgia, but I miss Woolworths! Not the jumble sale version of the early 2000s but the memory of my earlier childhood when it was more than just a shop but a destination to meet friends and buy pick ‘n’ mix and the weeks latest number one singles. Maybe I miss them because all that has replaced them is a stack ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap mentality that is endemic to the demise of the Great British high street.”


Daniela Nunzi Mihranian, creative director, Studio Minerva
Daniela Nunzi Mihranian, creative director, Studio Minerva

“For me, it would be great to see Our Price make a return. What I loved about it was the simple, strong and memorable mark. It just felt cool swinging a bag up the street with that week’s 7″, or so I am told by my older friends! In a world where music has effectively become free the chances of a return are slight I fear.”


James Kent, partner, Kent Lyons
James Kent, partner, Why

“This got us chatting in the studio – bringing back fond memories. We all came to the conclusion that the reason these brands are no longer on the high street is because… well, no one really wanted them. Like the feeling we got from the return of TFI Friday, some things are best left consigned to the memory banks. However it would be great to see a nostalgic pop-up with the pick ‘n’ mix from Woolworths, the original branding from Concept Man and Chelsea Girl, neon ski wear and shell suits from Clock House at C&A. Tower Records vinyl to flick through, near the Athena poster rack – ‘take me to your dealer’ and ‘man holding baby’ posters – all sited in an ABC cinema playing Start Wars and Back to the Future. Rad…”


Dave Simpson, creative director, Music
Dave Simpson, creative director, Music

“Cordon Bleu, Athena, Presto, Rumbelows, Van Allen, Granada, Norweb (& Manweb), Tandy, Happy Eater, C&A, Chelsea Girl, Snob, Our Price, Music Zone, Zavvi, MK One, Freeman Hardy Willis, Olivers, Kwik Save, Fads, Radio Rentals, Dolcis, Tammy Girl, Fine Fare, Timothy White’s, Safeway, Dewhursts the Master Butcher, Lunn Poly, JJB and Woolworths (of course) — we don’t miss any of them. The one we do miss is Phones 4u. Music and Phones 4u were weeks away from construction starting on-site for a concept store that would change the way mobile phones were sold on the high street forever… alas, it was not to be.”

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