You can forget Diagon Alley. Liverpool’s real magic shop was (and still is) T.J.Hughes. So yesterday was a black day indeed for the city’s retail heritage – as T.J’s said it was looking to appoint an administrator, placing 4,000 full and part time jobs in jeopardy at its 57 stores nationwide.

Habitat’s loss – it’s sad, but we knew, the moment it introduced its black resin chandeliers that the store had lost its way. T.J. Hughes? That’s something we’ll never be able to replace.

And, when you add it to the list that includes Blackers, Lewis’s and Owen Owen the loss is felt all the stronger. It’s like another piece of our DNA has been extracted, and replaced by some Monsanto-grown gene: and, slowly but surely, Liverpool’s living history dies at the feet of Tesco Metro.

I’m just about old enough to remember T.J. Hughes’ London Road store being the place to shop on a Saturday afternoon. I remember queuing in the snow one Christmas to catch Pinky and Perky putting on a show in the Grotto, and walking through the underground tunnel connecting the two stores: transformed into a Lapland labyrinth, a path to Santa’s door.

No-one queues to get into T.J.’s any more. And in the forty years since Pinky and Perky became streaky and gammon, the city has all but turned its back on London Road. And, with the opening of Liverpool ONE, this once great thoroughfare has become silted up and sidelined.

But the store remained a destination – and its canny buyers knew exactly how to lure punters up the steep, sex-shop lined street. A half price Retin-A Garnier set here, a 42 inch plasma for under £300 there.

You can forget squealing pigs. Saturdays in T.J.’s was, for our money, the best show in town. It was our show, and we were all the stars. Grandmas rummaging through flip-flops. Tiny rows of TV screens extolling the wonders of lint removers, egg choppers and salad tossers. Banked up rows of bean-bag lap-trays. Ramps, creaky stairs, the chatter of the tea and toast brigade, fuelling up before heading off to Bingo.

T.J’s was never going to relocate to Grosvenor’s vision of anytown UK. It was Liverpool. If I ever felt homesick when I’d moved to Manchester (it was just a phase, honestly) I’d immerse myself in Stretford’s T.J.’s for an hour or two and, amid the Farrah slacks and Fiorelli purses, the Tommy Hilfiger wallet sets and David Beckham body lube, I’d feel like the M62 had concertinaed back on itself, like some Inception outtake, and I’d be back home.

Is there room in retail for stores like T.J’s anymore? Of course there is – you’ve only got to look at the behemoth that is Wilko’s, and our home grown Home Bargains. But for all their cheap batteries and three-for-a-quid Wispas they’re joyless affairs.

They’re all about the end-of-line. T.J’s was more end of the pier. And, with the news that the venerable store has gone into receivership, it looks like it’s the end of the road too.

I’ll miss it if it goes, but you know what T.J.’s is like… Its administrators say it’s looking for a buyer? Let’s all shop there this Saturday. Let’s rummage through the lip gloss. Lets delve deep into the shimmering mountain of sequinned compact cases, and what’s the betting we’ll find one?

13 Responses to “So, Farewell Then, T.J. Hughes”

  1. Patricia Onyia

    I fell under TJ’s spell within the last 10 year, when my daughter went to live near Liverpool and she took me shopping one day before Liverpool 1 took over.
    My best leather gloves, favourite suitcases, comfy sneakers, and loads of stuff in my kitchen came from TJ’s. Visiting Liverpool will never be the same again.

  2. You do have to worry for that part of town now that they have slipped into administration. There’s also a fairly large store in Bootle New Strand and this will have a big impact on that shopping centre as it is already struggling following the opening of a number of large supermarkets.

  3. Ronnie de Ramper

    It’s not just TJ’s at the ‘low’ end of the market that’s in trouble. Has anyone wandered through the Met Quarter recently?

    Anyhow, sad days if TJ’s goes. But not as sad as the replacement by WH Smith many years back of Cooper’s on Church St. Now that was a shop and a half!

  4. James

    If you don’t move with the times then you only stagnate, and if you stagnate then people will go elsewhere. Unfortunately, once that’s started to happen it’s often a catch 22 with money needed to catch up and not enough coming through the door.

    In my view, TJ’s store looks appalling and holds about as much attraction for me to go and browse around as Lewis’s did at the end. What an amazing building its in, but walk past it and it feels to me like walking through a visual representation of the Great Depression. Well, it leaves me depressed anyway.

    In fact, in my view, London Road is an utter fag end of a tip. If that in your opinion is Liverpool’s Living History then please bring on the future!

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