Column: Confessions of a BHS shopper
'˜Now where will I go for plain dye cotton towels?' was my first '“ admittedly odd '“ response to the potential demise of BHS. There, I've outed myself as a BHS shopper.
‘Where will I go for plain dye cotton towels?’ was my first - admittedly odd - response to the potential demise of BHS. There, I’ve outed myself as a BHS shopper.
But while mulling over alternative suppliers for the towels, Eygptian cotton bedding, light fittings - all those things that you suddenly become interested in at a certain age - I turned back the clock to the heyday of BHS and other high street favs of days gone by.
As teenagers we never shopped in BHS, but from the age of 14 upwards someone in my class always worked there as a Saturday Girl. BHS, Littlewoods, Woolworths - they were all staffed by 15-year-old girls with pre-GHDs wild hair, lashings of Miners frosted blue eye-shadow and a fetching floral print smock top hidden beneath the regulation nylon pinafore that constitued the store uniform.
Personally, I graced the floor of Carricks - later part of the Greggs empire - and Fenwicks of Newcastle, of which I was particularly proud as it was a cut about the usual as it was a lvoely posh shop, and still is.
Almost everyone I knew had a Saturday job, many, including me, from the age of 14 (legal back then).
We did it for the cash of course; money was tight and it was a great feeling to be able to splash out on something that your parents would never have stumped up the cash for (dayglo organge loon pants anyone?).
What we didn’t realise necessarily, of course, was that it was preparing us for adulthood and for the world of work.
While serving up instant coffees and ham sandwiches, or standing outside a BHS changing room you learnt all you needed to know: teamwork, punctuality, communication.
Entering the workplace full-time a couple of years later we were well-prepared. we knew what to expect. Making the tea and doing the menial tasks expected of the most junior member of the team didn’t come as a shock.
But what of today’s teenagers? Where are the opportunities for them to take those first faltering steps into work now that our town centres are beginning to look like Detroit?
Our shrinking economy and the retail revolution that has followed the rise of the web means that such jobs are few and far between.
Instead our teenagers have to rely on unpaid work experience placements of varying and limited value to prepare them for a nine to five life (if they are lucky).
Schools and colleges do their best with “life skills” and the like but niothing can match a stint on the shop floor.