Woolworth's chain resurrected as e-tailer

26 June 2009

LONDON: Woolworth's, the UK retail chain that in January closed the doors of its 807 stores after 99 years of trading, has been relaunched online. Shop Direct Group, the British catalogue and internet retail operator behind the revival, hopes a more focused offering will ensure the iconic brand has a successful web-based future.

The familiar "pick 'n' mix" sweets, children's wear and toys will now be supplemented by electrical goods such as mobile phones and MP3 players in a bid to appeal to a younger audience – principally families with young children.

"Customers wanted a more targeted offer. It will be a one-stop-shop for the family," explained Mark Newton-Jones, Shop Direct's chief executive.

The new online store won't offer the cheapest prices on the market, its new owners said, but plans to be competitive by leveraging the advantage of low-overheads and using Shop Direct's exisiting warehousing and distribution network. It also hopes to differentiate itself with quality customer service and a "Very Important Families" club offering perks such as free movie tickets.

Over and above relaunching in a deep recession that has already seen the demise of its bricks-and-mortar namesake, the new Woolworths is entering a fiercely competitive marketplace already well patrolled by a plethora of established operators, not least Tesco Direct, the online and mail-order arm of the UK's largest supermarket group.

But Newton-Jones remains upbeat, predicting his new venture "will make a profit in its first year."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal; additional reporting by WARC staff