05 Feb 2009

Is Woolworth’s online rebirth a good idea?

Raj Bhatt

Woolworth’s, the iconic hundred-year old British retail store chain, was forced into administration in December. It had to shut its 800 stores after Christmas. Click here to get a wonderful series of blog articles on the history and trivia of Woolworths UK.

If you permit me some diversions, here are some interesting trivia:

  • Woolworths was started in the US (Yes, the Woolworth building belonged to FW Woolworth). The first UK store opened 30 years after the first US store!
  • Woolworth in the UK (also called the Woollies) is not related to Woolworths in Australia, NZ, South Africa and Mexico
  • The remnant of FW Woolworths Company in the USA is Foot Locker, the sportswear store chain!
  • Woollies continue to operate successfully in Germany

Yesterday, Shop Direct, UK’s largest online and home shopping retailer (1.6 BN GBP) announced that it has acquired the Woolworth’s brands in the UK and will relaunch it online (click here).

Is relaunching the Woolworth’s brand online a good idea?

I don’t know how much Shop Direct paid for Woolies, but going by this newspaper article, they would have paid a few tens of millions of GBP. I think it is a brilliant idea because:

  1. Woolworths is a strong brand in the UK. many generations of Britishers have gone through the shopping experience at their local Woollies. Here’s an interesting TimesOnline column on the big void left by Woolies demise.
  2. They were rated as one the top 200 brands of retailing by Deloitte as recently as January 2008 (click here).

Woolies is dead. Long live Woolies !

online, Woolies


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