THE thronging hordes were a sight to behold.

As a result of greed and crossed wires, several dozen shoppers crammed the space outside Watt Brothers on Saturday morning waiting to pick up a bargain or two.

Elbows out, expletives at the ready, the crush when the shutters were raised at 9am on the flagship Sauchiehall Street branch, in Glasgow city centre, was unedifying in the extreme.

And the cause, also, for blushes. Rumours of a closing down sale were greatly exaggerated.

Watt Brothers, sited on Sauchiehall Street for more than 100 years, announced last week that it is to enter administration unless a buyer is quickly found.

It is the latest bad news for one of Glasgow’s most important shopping streets. Having become increasingly run down in recent years, with the loss of the showcase BHS store and other smaller shops, it then suffered the Victoria’s Nightclub fire.

While Glasgow City Council advanced plans for the swish Avenues project to connect Sauchiehall Street and the west end of the city with a Dutch-style cycle route, the Glasgow School of Art fire caused further devastation.

As well as Watt Brothers, the clothing store Bonmarché - just a few doors along - also announced it had gone into administration. A few doors along again, the Sainsburys local has closed.

The loss of Watt Brothers, which began selling ribbon and lace when King George V was on the throne, though, is truly a sad development.

It’s Art Deco building is a landmark on the street and it is a favourite retail name that has outlived many other similar businesses set up on Sauchiehall Street - Pettigrew & Stephens sitting opposite and Copeland & Lye just along the road.

One says “popular” but if it remained popular it wouldn’t be entering administration, would it?

Like so many department stores before it - BHS, Littlewoods, House of Fraser, Debenhams - it has failed to thrive. Dunnes Stores, still operating in Ireland and more than 70 years old, closed its UK stores last year, including a branch on, you guessed it, Sauchiehall Street.

Willie, the great-grandson of Watt Brothers founder Allan, reflected in an interview in May last year on the challenges facing retailers.

“There has always been change to cope with,” he said. “In the 70s, along came chainstores, then it was the big discounters and now the internet. You have to adapt to survive.”

That’s certainly correct. A failure to adapt is a charge levelled at the increasingly beleaguered Marks & Spencers, which last month dropped out of the FTSE 100 for the first time. Mr Watt also spoke of how the business had grown from 40 employees to nearly 400, from one shop to 12 sites. “Last year,” he added, “We had a million hits on Facebook.”

There’s something so sad about that last line. With the internet as king, businesses have a focus on clicks. Yet a social media presence means nothing if it isn’t translating clicks into cash.

M&S, that great British behemoth, also sits on Sauchiehall Street. Many of its branches pre-date the Second World War and so are in locations where people simply aren’t spending enough money to justify saving branches.

A late move to online shopping has harmed the mid-market favourite.

Consumers shop via their mobile phones and at out of town retail parks.

The impatient queues at Watt Brothers show that shoppers have an appetite to spend on the high street if they have the sniff of a decent bargain, but also spells out that the days of department stores are dwindling to a close.

While Watt Brothers had a firm place in Glasgow’s heart, nostalgia does not pay the bills and the store has failed, as its owners acknowledged it must, to adapt to survive. Shoppers hold great affection for retail brands they grow up with and, understandably, there’s sadness when these links to our past close. Surprise is no longer reasonable. If consumers don’t use these stores, they’ll lose them.

Local high streets are already moving away from being retail centres to offering spaces for social enterprises, charities and start ups such as co-working spaces. What of the big city centre shopping streets, though?

On Sauchiehall Street new department stores are not moving in to the recently vacated gaps. BHS will be office space; Dunnes Stores will be a hotel. Only the most adaptable brands will survive and that means a smaller physical shops and a more streamlined online service.

With the leftover space, it’s time to be creative and make city centres more attractive places to live with new housing, libraries, green space. A farewell to familiar things is always sad but the future of our city centres is not a death, it is a reincarnation.