Iconic department store that took up almost an entire city street

Liverpool city center has changed dramatically over the past few decades, but one store that many people will remember is Rapid Hardware.

The iconic store was founded in 1971 and gradually expanded the length of Renshaw Street, becoming one of the city’s landmarks.

As a large family store, Rapid became famous for its DIY, gardening and home improvement products.

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Google Street View images show what the store looked like in 2008, before moving to the George Henry Lee Building in Basnett Street the following year.

In 2009, the Renshaw Street store appeared in an episode of the BBC series The Apprentice, with all contestants required to present products to store managers.

The former Rapid Hardware store on Renshaw Street in Liverpool city center

The shooting took place after a producer on the show was struck by the huge storefront of the DIY store, which stretched for a third of a mile along Renshaw Street.

Apprentice candidates presented their products to store manager John Courtman and operations manager Liz Jenkins.

Renshaw Street, Liverpool and the old Rapid Hardware store buildings.  Photo by Colin Lane
Renshaw Street, Liverpool and the old Rapid Hardware store buildings. Photo by Colin Lane

Speaking to ECHO at the time, Mr Courtman said: ‘Much of the candidates’ inexperience came to light. The products they featured were not very well documented in terms of the store they were targeting.

“They hadn’t done any research on the background of the store and the products we sell, versus what they actually offer. I don’t think they have the best products, but it improves the television if they are allowed to feature items that are not the best of the bunch.We are very selective about the products we have in store.

“The candidates learned that it is a very difficult market to present something new, but they approached the task in a positive way with great brilliance and enthusiasm”.

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After moving into the former George Henry Lee Building in 2009, Rapid was hit hard by the recession.

He fell into administration in February 2013 after failing to strike a deal with his bank, Royal Bank of Scotland.

The business reopened three months later in the same building under a different name, Rapid Discount Outlet, along with many of its former employees.

The department store expanded its product line in the new discount store, but the business suffered losses during the three years of operation and closed in 2017.

A report at the time suggested that it was construction work and a lack of parking that contributed to the closure of Rapid Discount Outlet.

Today, the buildings that housed the original Rapid store on Renshaw Street are now owned by a range of different businesses, from the Four Seasons Restaurant to M Box Karaoke and Rudy’s on the corner of Bold Street.

Share your memories of shopping or working at Rapid Hardware on Renshaw Street in the comment below.