Admit it, you did it, I did it, we all did it at least once — pinching from the pick n mix at your local Woolworths.
And sadly, all that came to an end in December 2008, when all remaining Woolworths stores were shuttered for good. As a nation we mourned. We mourned the loss of something which was an integral and much loved part of our lives.
Fast-forward to this week and rejoice! Woolworths is to make a return to the high street in 2021. A tweet from the company’s account confirmed it, so it must be true. Within hours, Woolworths was trending on Twitter and the story was covered across the country by both national and local media.
Except it was all a fake. From the very recently bought domain to the non-existent website, to the typos and spelling mistakes, the story had the look of a couple of bored Gen Z in their bedrooms on half term having a giggle — and, in the process, duping the entire nation.
It’s as if we’ve all unwittingly taken part in a social media experiment which will end up in a GCSE case study.
But in reality, we owe them a debt of gratitude. Because what this really serves to demonstrate are two things: first, the power of social media, but more importantly, the place which retail occupies in our lives. We believed the story because we wanted to believe it. Because, while the Woolworths brand disappeared 12 years ago, we still have a strong affection for it.
And that’s the real relevance of this episode — not that the nation was taken in by yet another fake news story, but that as we continue to navigate our way through this epidemic, retail remains a fundamental part of our lives and cornerstone of our communities.
For that reason, we have to thank whoever is behind it all. More than any scholarly article or academic paper ever could, this has served to remind us that our high streets need preserving, need protecting. Without them, all we’ll have left is a few mouse clicks and a ring at the door.
And frankly, unlike grabbing a few contraband Kola cubes from the pick n mix, where’s the fun in that?
Main image credit: Getty