diamond geezer

 Friday, February 16, 2018

In 1890 John Bodger opened a drapers shop in Ilford. Bodgers soon grew to become the largest department store in town. At the end of the month it closes forever.

A massive closing down sale is underway, with bargains on all floors. It's been underway for months, pretty much since the owners announced the closure last summer. But there are still many bargains to be had, across three floors, and Ilford's shoppers are all over the shop.

The ground floor has the soft furnishings, as befits a former drapery. Bed linen is the big leftover, with boxes and boxes of fitted sheets and pillowcases piled up at up to 70% off. Redbridge's homeowners can be found rifling through packs of striped, designer and plain, and queueing up at the tills with classic velvet top curtains.

The first floor is for ladieswear, fine fragrances and crates of purple Christmas baubles at 5p each. Around the walls are brand names long forgotten everywhere else in town, including Precis, Anna Rose and Playtex, but the shoppers checking the hangers remember them well. Only certain sizes of floral blouse remain.

An escalator rumbles up to the second floor, but only for those capable of walking back down. A whole wall of better-than-half-price suitcases faces the crowds, still dearer than you'd get on the market, but here you're paying for quality. Alongside are children's toys reduced in price by red stickers on red stickers on red stickers, and a much diminished china selection.

In 'Small Electrical', where generations once fitted out their kitchens, Elgento toasters are remarkably plentiful. Nobody from the Deliveroo generation wants a pressure cooker, even at 70% off, but nobody from the Deliveroo generation is here. Shame, they'd probably clear that stack of Nutribullets by the stairs.

Nearer the rear of the store a tiny haberdashery lingers, with coloured threads at knockdown prices and a selection of full colour knitting patterns. As for the glassware department, that's closed and the area is zoned off for the storage of shop display units, plus a cluster of nude mannequins with sticky tape across their chests.

Right at the back is Cafe Moda, the sit down cafeteria, where Ilford's pensioners still queue for The Perfect One Pot Meal With Crusty Bread. Nostalgic diners should pick up a tray and run some crockery along the front of the counter, mulling over whether to try the daily chef's special or a jacket potato, while they still can.

It was Westfield did the place in, the owners say. Ilford's commercial pull has ebbed away, and the loyalty of the store's hardiest shoppers hasn't been enough to keep finances afloat. The fact that Bodgers is located on prime land opposite a future Crossrail station might have coloured their thinking too.

The Mayor unveiled a plaque by the main entrance in 2015 to celebrate 125 years of trading. If only the tills had been as busy then as they are now, management must wish, with just two weeks of the closing down sale to go. As fitted sheets and ladieswear continue to fly, this is an old fashioned retail experience in its death throes. East London will not see its like again.

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