DIDCOT; OXON: Despite the threat of a looming court battle with the powerful Barclay Brothers, variety retailer Alworths will defiantly open its doors for the first time this morning.

Born out of the ashes of the now-defunct Woolworths operation - which would have been 100 years old today - the new chain aims to have five more outlets operational in the South of the country before Christmas, with a further 17 openings planned for the next 12 months.

Founder Andy Latham, the former head of stores and concessions at Woolworths who has used his own initials to create the new company name, is aiming to run 100 shops - and build a £30 million (€33.4m; $49.5m) annual turnover - by 2011.

Many of the staff will be ex-Woolworths employees.

Although it has taken just 66 days to create the store; which will focus on branded toys, homeware, seasonal and garden products plus pick 'n' mix sweets, Latham believes that Alworths has a good chance of plugging the gap left by the Woolworths liquidation a year ago.

"We will be a real family retailer," he says, "and we expect lots of interest in the run-up to Christmas."

"Both staff and customers have really missed Woolies." 

While Alworths has no immediate plans to offer internet shopping, the new brand is already causing consternation at Shop Direct.

Owned by the Barclay Brothers, the Shop Direct online operation bought the original Woolworths brand name and logo for £12 million several months ago. It fears that Alworths may be about to steal its clothes.

With the matter now in the hands of solicitors, neither side was willing to talk about the likelihood of a legal battle.




Data sourced from Alworths; additional content by WARC staff