Big W is way better than Kmart
In what I'm hoping is some tasteless April Fool's Day joke, Woolworths announced they are closing 30 of their Big W stores on Monday.
The news comes as the department store chain tries to pivot out of the red, having recorded losses for over 18 quarters. They haven't announced which stores will go, only that they will close them over the next three years.
And excuse me, but I'm devastated. Big W is my solace, my safe place, my sun, my moon. They're the blousy little sister of Woolworths, and they're criminally underrated.
And I should know - I just ordered a heap of winter clothes for my kids from there. I don't want to sound like their spokesperson but girl's leggings? Out they go at $3.50!
And it's not just the price, delivery is quicker than Kmart and the fashion isn't all that bad either.
Am I saying that the store is free of misshapen polyester orange caftans that look flattering on exactly no one? No. So am I just going to gloss over the fact that the shoe department is choc-full of pleathery plastic so nasty it carries a faint scent of sulphur? Certainly not.
Am I going to pretend it's OK that far too many women's white T-shirts are ruined by the words, "Mermaids have more fun" emblazoned across them? What am I, some sort of idiot liar? Of course I'm not.
It's Big W, not Windsor Castle, and you get what you came for.
But you know who else carries those gross caftans, sad slogans and stinky shoe sections? Kmart - that's who, and you don't hear anybody knocking them. It's all "Ooh, the furniture! Ooh, the bath bombs! Ooh, the Dyson!"
And yes, the furniture is quite stylish. But Big W carry Dysons! And, in my humble opinion, greater variety.
What's more, some Big W stores have an optometrist section. There's even a Big W store solely dedicated to party merch. What's Kmart got - some half-baked paper piñata?
You know what's going on here, don't you? Plain old snobbery. Big W was born in the country - it began as a regional Variety store, a spin-off of Woolworths in 1964. That's why there's still a Big W in Dubbo and Mudgee and Katoomba.
It's a store for salt of the earth types, and perhaps that's why it's been snubbed.
Or, maybe it's just that not enough people know of its greatness. I admit, I was one of them until the week I was staying at my parent's house and they lived five minutes away from one.
I was seven months pregnant at the time, and desperate for distraction. I told myself, as most women in my demographic do, that I was going in to buy one thing, which of course I forgot about as soon as I ventured past the imitation Ugg boots and fanned-out selection of There's Something About Mary DVDs, (also available on BluRay).
But what I found - was my soul, well, that and a pair of plus size maternity pyjama pants that were so stylish, I wore them in public. And if you think I'm some sort of cheapskate who lost her pregnant mind let me assure you, I got compliments on those pants.
See? Big W can be cool when they want to. And if I hadn't stayed with my parents, I might never have known.
But Kmart? Well, there's one at Bondi Junction, and one at Broadway and that's just enough exposure for all the Hipsters who shop ironically for Onesies to wear to their piñata parties in all those gentrified inner-city suburbs.
The American-born department store started life as a "five-and-dime store" (a two dollar shop to you and me) in Memphis, Tennessee - the brain child of founder S. S. Kresge in 1897, which yes, makes it practically historic.
The chain arrived on Aussie shores in 1969 when the first K-Mart opened up in Burwood East, Victoria, and it has been impressing lycra-clad mums and small children ever since with cut-price homeware, kids clothes, electrical appliances and aisles of cheap and cheerful toys.
Meanwhile, there stands Big W, stout and proud in all the country towns you forgot about, the ones where your grandfather made a go of it on the farm, before wandering the aisles in search of shoe polish and a portable radio because he knew Big W had both.
Oh, I'm getting sentimental, I know, but isn't that the least I can do for a shop that gave me so much and asked so little, (seriously - $7 for an XXL fleecy jumper - you won't believe the quality!)
So, roll on Big W, roll on out like the tide, taking those precious 30 stores with you.
Sure, all the upwardly mobile types vying for reverse glitter pillows at Kmart won't miss you, but they never knew the glory of purchasing over 17 items, half of them edible, the other half, disposable, for the low, low price of $37.94.
- Natalie Reilly is a freelance journalist. Continue the conversation @thatnatreilly