Given the choice, it appears that shoppers opt for Primark rather than Peacocks when it comes to bagging a bargain. But why?

It’s hard not to think back to Woolworths. When that retailer went under in the UK there was almost universal lamentation with some branding it a national tragedy. For those employed by the former general retailer it was just that: lost jobs and blighted prospects. And for those who still shopped Woolies it was also disappointing.

The point perhaps is that the people who made the most noise were not those who found themselves suddenly faced by the prospect of a job hunt, but those who rarely, if ever, set foot within one of the retailer’s branches. And it wasn’t as if the chain had insufficient stores – there was one on more or less every street corner. The, perhaps unpalatable, fact is that the stores were poorly stocked, looked bad and had almost nothing in them that you couldn’t buy somewhere else and frequently cheaper. And yet a wave of nostalgia seemed to engulf the nation as they contemplated what seemed to have been lost.

It’s a little over three years since that happened and now that the administrators have arrived at Peacocks, similar noises are being made by people who also may well never have set foot in one of the value fashion’s stores. Setting aside for a moment the financial arrangements that have certainly contributed to the current state of affairs, there is actually rather more to be depressed about. True, this is a chain that operates in the same market as Primark and whose stores are not a patch on any of that retailer‘s newer branches, but with more than 600 outlets and many of them in secondary locations, its disappearance will leave a real gap.

But Peacocks’ stores are about value fashion retailing as it used to be, not as it is becoming. There are several versions of the Peacocks format on our high streets and if you choose to look at the more recent iterations, everything is just as it should be – large graphics, densely merchandised rails and high ambient lighting levels. But hang on a second, where are the different ways of merchandising, the distinct private label brands (they are there, but they’re just not obvious) and the dramatic overhead lighting fixtures? – ah no, that’s Primark and this is perhaps what’s hit Peacocks hardest.

In fairness, Peacock’s online presence is streets ahead of where Woolworths ever was, but with such a substantial store presence this is never going to be enough to offset the shortcomings of the stores. And in every race there will be winners and losers and as things turn out this is one of the latter.