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Thursday, 31 October 2013

RIP BARRY HOLLINGSHEAD


I can’t remember exactly when I first met Barry Hollingshead.  Sometime in 1995, ’96, maybe.  Around that era for sure.  We were Asda store managers.  He was of a slightly more senior vintage.  I was a relative rookie – in experience rather than years.  I took to him straight away.  He was a man of insight, of wisdom, of humour.  He could cut through the modern jack-the-lad management style and recall with both affection and nostalgia, the way things used to be.  He was old-school and proud of it.  He was intelligent and he knew how to court the newer breed of whippersnapper store managers, area managers and head office honchos.  He was respected and lauded as one of the good guys because he was one of the good guys.

Inevitably, at managers meetings, we would spend a lot of time together and enjoy our mutual disdain for the buddy-buddy cliques around us, although we were probably both pot and kettle in that regard.  We had little time for the suck-up merchants, although we were always polite and mannerly to our seniors.

Barry was always cute and calculating about his investments and pension planning and he chose his own time to leave Asda.  He was 60.  I left Asda too and we kept in touch for a short time.  We had a lunch in Newark one day and put the world to rights several times within a couple of hours.  We lost touch, as happens when people get on with their own lives.  But I thought about him often.

Last Thursday, I got a voice message from another old Asda colleague, Phil Day, telling me that Barry had died on the previous Friday.  It was kind of Phil to make the effort.  I was very upset to hear the news.  Barry was 68.

I would have liked to have attended his funeral service but I was 150 miles away at a family wedding.  In my own thoughts, in my own way, I said my farewell to one of the most generous and supportive friends in my retail career.  I have met and worked with all kinds of people but I will always remember Barry Hollingshead with fondness and respect – one of life’s great sages and one of the very best friends to have in a fickle industry.  RIP, Barry.

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