Wednesday, November 18, 2020

An old video store inside a Happy Shopper shop

Striking old gold. Twice in one go.

I've spent a fair bit of 2020 reminiscing about 'the good old days' before the coronavirus pandemic. One of my areas of interest is in old retail brands - I am a marketer after all - and I have found remnants of a number of lost, dead and defunct brands. It's wonderful that these traces can still be found on the high street and at retail parks. If you know where to look.

I've found old Tandy and Toys R Us stores and signage - they are two brands I worked for in the 90s and the year 2000. I've also found old Woolworths, Big W, BHS, Kwik Save, Orange Mobile and RadioShack shops.

As I've been researching Blockbuster Video I've also noticed a number of old video shops. And last month we found a video shop still open and renting out VHS tapes!

One of the retro brands I remember clearly from growing up in the 80s and 90s was Happy Shopper. The colourful sign with the happy chappy face is a lovely throwback. Happy Shopper received a rebrand in 2000, but if you are lucky you can still find the original branding and signage on some shops.

The Wayfairer Discount Store in Ilkeston
The Wayfairer Discount Store in Ilkeston

While en route to an abandoned Toys R Us store in Preston I almost didn't believe my eyes as we drove past a closed Happy Shopper shop with the old signage still in place.

We actually found two Happy Shopper shops in Sheffield, one of which was still open. That store also had the original 1971 branding on the Covid-19 social distancing signage on the door! What a sight that was.

At the last Happy Shopper shop we found in Ilkeston, Derbyshire there was an extra bonus - it used to be a video shop too!

Video Box Office at The Wayfairer Discount Store in Ilkeston
You could hire videos from the Happy Shopper in the 1980's!

Video Box Office was the Business to Business part of ChoicesUK and launched in the UK in 1985 when the brand offered video rental services via third-party convenience stores. The following year ChoicesUK created a Business to Consumer operation with their own branded network of Choices Video stores.

While never as big as Blockbuster Video, Choices UK was a challenger to the market leader and the second largest chain of rental shops in the UK with 180 stores in the country. However, by 2007 the market for the rental of physical media was beginning to decline and other factors played a part in the brand going into administration. 59 ChoicesUK shops were taken over and rebranded as Blockbuster stores.

I wonder if there are any other remnants of Choices Video out there...?

Happy Shopper does still exist, as both convenience stores and own brand food & drink products. Many of the former Happy Shopper stores were rebranded as Premier shops. It has been part of the Booker Group since 1996. Booker itself is now owned by Tesco.

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