The Lost Precinct Advent Calendar – #3: Comet

You Knew Where To Come

The Ad of Christmas Past

For our third advert is one of Comet’s cheap and cheerful ones under the “You Know Where To Come” campaign. The leif motif is the Dynamo Black typeface Comet logo, with the ‘T’ appearing from the right. Also the dulcet tones of Ray Brooks (Mr Benn and Big Deal fame).

As if by magic, we have found out – Bullseye fashion – what we could be seeing in Comet. Which, if you remember in the pre out-of-town shopping era, occupied a corner unit on Clarence Arcade, Ashton-under-Lyne.

The Shop of Christmas Past

For a time, Comet was one of Britain’s foremost electrical retailers. It started out as Comet Battery Stores in Kingston-upon-Hull, founded on New Year’s Day in 1933 by George Hollingbery. 1960s and 1970s expansion saw its portfolio increase to town centres and edge of town sites. Many of which in Northern England and the Midlands.

Comet began to make more a national presence when the abolition of Retail Price Maintenance saw the Hull retailer pioneer big box electrical retailing. They were a family owned company till 1984 when Kingfisher (Woolworths’ owners at the time) bought the fledgling chain.

In 1996, Kingfisher failed to buy Dixons Stores Group. Instead, further market share was gained by the purchase of NORWEB Retail Group, whose out of town stores were incorporated into the Comet brand.

The beginning of the end for Comet was Kingfisher’s failed bid to purchase ASDA in April 1999. Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy’s group wanted ASDA stores to feature the Kingfisher brands under one roof. Food would have been ASDA’s purlieu; B&Q would have had the DIY concession; Superdrug for beauty products; there would have been George and Ladybird clothing; also the entertainment section and pick and mix counter, which was Woolies’ forte.

Ultimately, it was a pincer movement between online shopping and the aggressive discounting of ASDA’s future – now present – owners Walmart. After an effort to open new town centre branches and a demerger, the Comet name disappeared at the end of 2012.

S.V., 03 December 2015.