The iconic shops of Cambridgeshire residents miss most in the run-up to Christmas – archyde

Christmas shopping is a time that can bring a lot of joy to many people.

We all remember visiting our local market and seeing Santa Claus as a child or parent in his grotto while the decorations, advertisements and music can all help create the magical feeling.

However, we have had to adjust our Christmas shopping routine over the years.

Read more: Toys R Us: The shop that turned us all back into kids – and why it’s maybe coming back

This is largely due to the fact that many popular brands are falling off our main drag because they cannot survive in difficult times.

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We asked CambridgeshireLive readers on our Facebook page about their “lost” favorite pre-Christmas store – and you definitely delivered.

We have put together a selection of these answers to hopefully bring back some of those happy memories.


The most popular answer to our Facebook question was without a doubt the legendary Woolworths.

It’s hard to believe that it has been over a decade since we were able to visit the popular chain – and we are still not over it!

Back in 2008, Woolies announced that it would close all of its stores nationwide, which means today’s kids won’t experience their great toys as well as the delicious pic ‘n’ mix.

The best way to describe Woolworths is Poundland with a lot more ambition; It had aisles full of affordable impulse items that just had nothing to do with each other.

A significant piece of high street history faded by his departure and Cambridgeshire certainly felt that dump.

Shops were in St. Neots, Ely, Huntingdon, March, Wisbech, Cambridge and Peterborough.

How could we use a return with the beloved brand.


Debenhams im Grafton Center

If Woolworths was the most popular answer on our Facebook page, Debenhams followed in second place.

This loss is much more recent as the physical stores were only removed earlier this year; After the liquidation, the Debenhams brand and website were bought by online retailer Boohoo, who did not keep any of the stores.

Founded as early as 1778, the department store was an important part of the British high street with its range of clothing, household items and furniture.

The Cambridge store was among the last to close, adding to the total loss of 12,000 jobs.


BHS just before it closed for good

Ironically, after closing a competitor five years ago, Debenhams became one of the UK’s largest department store retailers.

BHS, or British Home Stores, mainly sold clothing and household items, but expanded into furniture, electronics, entertainment, beauty, and even convenience foods in later years.

The brand operated for 93 years before closing in 2016 – it was bought by Sir Philip Green in 2000 and the company became part of Green’s Arcadia group in 2009.

After many years of losses, the company was transferred to the Retail Acquisitions Ltd. consortium in March 2015.

Their buildings usually extended over two floors and usually contained a BHS cafe; It was great for Christmas gifts too, while for the younger generation it often housed Tammy Girl, a great teenage fashion brand that was pretty cheap and on trend.

The Cambridgeshire businesses have been included in the UK segregation and their absence is still felt.

When we asked, readers replied, “BHS. There were always good Christmas gifts for people who had no idea what to buy “and” BHS gift area, there were always different things. “


Evolution has closed
A closure sign on the window of Evolution

Our journey through time takes us to one of Cambridge’s own in the form of evolution.

The Buddhist-run retail empire was headquartered in Cambridge after starting trading in the 1980s before disbanding in 2015.

Gift and housewares supplier Windhorse, which had annual sales in excess of £ 10 million, ceased trading and resulted in stores being closed.

Aside from its Cambridge outlet, Evolution had nine other stores across the country, but all of them had to close their doors, including the store on Fitzroy Street, with competition from bigger businesses, the internet, and the “permanent discount” retail culture, all of them as reasons for it.

They had a wide variety of products on offer, selling everything from wind chimes to office furniture, and prided themselves on ethical manufacturing and values.

Readers remembered our Facebook post: “Oh my god, I spent so much time in there” and “I miss this place so much! Had to visit every time I visited Cambridge! ”.


Another store that kept popping up was the fashion brand C&A, which we have had to do without for some time.

There couldn’t have been a teenager in the 80s who didn’t buy their clothes from C & A’s famous Clockhouse collection, with its full range of affordable fashion for all ages.

Originally founded in Germany, the store has grown into a huge presence in UK city centers with its instantly recognizable logo.

However, the company’s strategy of selling inexpensive clothing in retail stores with high rental prices left it vulnerable to a new generation of competitors operating in cheaper locations outside of town, including Matalan, H&M, Zara, and Topshop (which themselves recently closed ).

In 2000, C&A announced its intention to withdraw from the UK market, which it had been in since 1922, and the last UK retail stores closed in 2001.

One interviewee recalled: “I still miss C&A and loved this place!”

Joshua Taylor

Queuing for Joshua Taylor in 1987
Queuing for Joshua Taylor in 1987

Another brand that had close ties to Cambridge was Joshua Taylor.

This was a kid’s paradise where you could have your name – and a cool transfer – printed on a t-shirt while you wait and design your very own (quite large) badge.

Joshua Taylor’s toy division was a Cambridge teenagers paradise and is very much missed this time of year.

The building that stood next to the other lost Cambridge store, Eaden Lilley, still dominates the corner of Market Street and Sidney Street, but the department store has long since disappeared since it closed in the 1990s.

Toys ‘R’ Us

Toys R Us im Beehive Center
Toys ‘R’ Us im Beehive Center

Our last detailed missed shop is one that will actually return to our malls in the not too distant future – Toys ‘R’ Us.

The toy company went out of business in 2018 but announced plans to return in physical form next year.

Whether the iconic advertising with the famous slogan “There’s a magic place, we are on our way there …” or the mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe, the shop brings back many nostalgic memories.

The pre-Christmas scramble for the best toy offer of the year was synonymous with the toy outlet, while the child-like reverse R embodied the playful character of the brand.

Cambridge lost its own Toys ‘R’ Us store at The Beehive Center before the store closed nationwide.

The best of the rest

Eaden Lilley at the time of sale in 1968
Eaden Lilley at the time of sale in 1968

The seven Lost Shops already outlined were the answers that were repeated most frequently on our Facebook page, but there were others that appeared less frequently but are definitely worth a mention.

Starting with Eaden Lilley, which had a fairly long history and dates back to 1760; more recently these department stores were all over Cambridgeshire at St. Ives, Great Shelford and Saffron Walden. This was a perfect Christmas getaway with Santa’s grotto a real highlight.

TJ Hughes also received a mention when the discount department store became a national chain with 57 stores at its peak before shrinking to just six locations when it entered management in 2011.

As one reader recalled, “When I was spending my Christmas bonus on CDs” at HMV, Littlewood shut down in the face of increased competition from internet rivals, and Oasis collapsed in administration in April 2020.

Other readers argued for Hawkins Bazaar, Dorothy Perkins, HomeSense, Toymaster, and Cath Kidston.

What memories do you have of those lost businesses in Cambridgeshire? And do you have others that you would add to this list? Let us know in the comments.

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