Well that’s it. After yesterday’s surprise announcement that 21 of its stores would close, Grainger Games has shut the remainder today, according to Eurogamer. I feel very sorry for all of the employees who are now suddenly out of a job – and according to the comments on this Kotaku UK article, some weren’t even aware that they were being made redundant until they read it on the news.
It seems that there won’t be a closing down sale either, with the remaining staff being ordered to pack up all of the stock. It means there won’t even be a chance to say goodbye to my local store, to wander around it one last time and commiserate with the staff. It might sound trite to say it, but it feels like someone I know has suddenly died.
Grainger Games has been a north-east success story – it started out as a market stall in Newcastle and grew to a total of 67 stores, mostly in the north of England. I discovered Grainger Games for the first time last year, when I moved from Scotland to the north-east and was pleasantly surprised to discover this local chain with knowledgeable staff and competitive prices. And now, less than a year since I moved, it’s all gone. Just like that.
It feels like an especially bitter blow because North-East England, where my partner hails from, has had an utterly shit time of it for the past two decades, and this is just the latest in a long line of terrible blows. The north-east as a whole has suffered from heavy industry and coal mines shutting down over the past few decades, and the recession of 2008 hit the area particularly hard. Whereas other parts of the country recovered a few years on, it feels like nothing has changed at all in the north-east. House prices quickly bounced back after dipping post-2008 in most other areas, but in the north-east, house prices haven’t budged at all, or have even fallen. In fact, the average house price is just £123,000 in the north-east right now – it was £139,000 in 2008. It’s no wonder the majority of voters up here went for Brexit – what’s the point of voting for everything to stay the same, when things are actually getting worse for you?
In this context, the closure of Grainger Games is a particularly bitter blow. You could once point to the chain and say, “Look, here’s a north-east success story,” but now it’s gone, along with all of the other shops that once crowded the town centre. I mean, Starbucks pulled out of Darlington just the other month. Starbucks! Starbucks, who are known to operate two or three (or even four) outlets in the same street, now don’t have a presence in a town of 100,000 people. McDonald’s left Darlington, too. MCDONALD’S! I mean, come on.
So yes, the closure of Grainger Games feels like another bitter blow for an already struggling area. And I for one am extremely sad to see it go, not just because I loved the store, but because it leaves yet another hole in the already hollowed out north-east high street.