We wake up this morning, not only to snow, but to news that Woolworths is to be re-launched as an online business.
As we predicted in our post in December, somebody would see value in the name awareness of the Woolworths brand and it seems that the Barclay twins, owners of the Shop Direct Group, which includes Great Universal and Marshall Ward, are the ones to give it a go. The amount that they have paid for the brand is so far undisclosed.
One of the main reasons for the demise of Woolworths as a high-street store was the fact that there was no real understanding of what it stood for anymore. The new owners seem to be of the same opinion and are asking people to tell them what they should sell.
"Essentially we will sell children's clothing ....and other products, but what we're looking to do is encourage customers to come to us and tell us what they would like to see from Woolworths and what they liked and disliked (about the old business)"
Mark Newton-Jones, Chief Executive
Asking for and listening to customer opinion is commendable. We only hope that this general uncertainty about what the business is and what the market will be has been reflected in the purchase price.
To make the new business a success, Newton-Jones and his team will have to give people a reason to choose Woolworths again. One imagines that it will pitch itself into competition with Argos, Tesco and the mighty Amazon amongst others. So what reason will it give us? Price?
To be truly successful, the new owners will need to be more innovative than this and develop the Woolworths brand around quality, customer service and strength in certain niches. The Ladybird and Chad Valley brands provide good initial opportunities to do this and there could be others. We'll see.
The new business is due to launch in the summer and we will watch developments with interest. In the meantime, hats-off to the Barclay twins, not only for trying to save a high-street icon, but for getting on and doing business despite the recession. We need a few more like them.