Last week another store chain hit the outer circle of hell known as administration. This time it was Principles and the news is that the stores are to go, but Debenhams will mop up the stock, keeping the brand alive in its branches - for the time being, at least.

The question that needs to be asked is precisely the same as should perhaps have been levelled at Woolworths before it disappeared at the beginning of this year - when was the last time you went into one of these shops?

Principles is a considerably more recent phenomenon than Woolies was and is the spawn of the retail brand factory that seemed to keep pumping out new names in the 1980s. Back then, it was quite a sharp mid-market proposition, where the stores boasted interiors that seemed to capture much of the glossy zeitgeist epitomized by names such as Woodhouse and Blazer.

The trouble is, a quarter of a century later, Principles seemed to have remained part of that era and there was little sense of this being a brand in a hurry to keep pace with changes in the market. The other point is that it had become increasingly difficult to suggest what the brand actually stood for.

The notion of setting out your stall with a very direct appeal to a specific customer appeared to have been overlooked and standing outside a Principles store, there seemed little to differentiate it from its mid-market rivals. The fact that had sufficient shoppers happened to have wandered into these stores, they would probably have found a fair amount to their liking is by the way. You still have to get them in before a sale can be made.

Now contrast what has happened at Principles with Next. Next may not be to everybody's taste - what retailer is? - but it has consistently changed its in-store act to ensure that shoppers have a reason to return. The outcome is an outfit that is still here and that potential customers still walk into owing to an implicit sense of dynamism.

Retailers will always tell you that they are not happy with what they have and are forever looking for ways to improve. The best ones will mean it and even in these grim days, will be thinking about how to make more of what they have and what's coming up.

The Principles stores appear, frankly, to have been a little unloved and the ultimate price is being paid. The stock will probably continue to shift in Debenhams, but will the stores be missed by anybody other than the very unlucky people who used to work in them?

Most Principles stores closed