In February , Shop Direct Group purchased the Woolworths trademark and internet address, which continued as a retail website until its closure in June As of April , after former director Tony Page expressed a wish to buy the Woolworths name from Shop Direct, there was talk of Woolworths making a comeback to British high streets.
The British branch of the F. Woolworth Company , which had been founded in Pennsylvania, F. During the buying trip, Woolworth met a young clerk, William Lawrence Stephenson, who was recommended to him by John Wanamaker. Wanamaker had established a large chain of department stores across the United States and was one of Woolworth's heroes.
Stephenson was invited to London to meet Woolworth again, and was offered the job as director of the new company, which he accepted. After the idea for the creation of British stores, Frank Woolworth had offered invitations to store managers in the United States to open up stores in the UK and had only received offers to take positions at the time of his illness in March from Fred Woolworth of the Sixth Avenue and Samuel Balfour of the 14th Street stores in New York City.
However, Carson C. Peck, vice president and general manager of the company, had reservations with enlisting staff members to travel to Britain, questioning whether Woolworth had indeed created the new business adventure following a dream, or due to his dissatisfaction with the current condition of the American branch.
Peck also asked those who were willing to volunteer to reconsider their decision, claiming that those who had volunteered were unaware of the uncertainty and risks involved and that some were only tentatively willing to engage in Woolworth's new endeavour:  His concerns mainly entered on the fact that the majority of the managers who followed the decision did so out of loyalty to Woolworth,  and that moving such a valuable resource already established in the United States to what was a financially unproven "Little Infant" in the UK would have a detrimental effect upon the "Bread and Butter" of the Company.
To me it seems that these return sheets are in danger of being misunderstood and that it is a good deal like asking a boy to volunteer to go into a bear's den when he does not know whether he is to eat a nicely cooked luscious bear's steak, or be eaten by a great, big black bear. Despite reservations such as Peck's, the decision to launch stores in the United Kingdom went ahead as previously planned by Woolworth.
He considered several locations for the first stores, together with future possible sites. It opened on 5 November with a performance by a full orchestra, circus acts and fireworks. As a means of adherence to American trading tradition, only viewing of items was allowed on the first day of the shop's opening. This included guests being given complementary tea while being entertained by a traditional brass band in the refreshment room. The event was reported positively by the local newspaper, the Liverpool Courier , which praised the decor of the stores along with the value and range of items on sale.
Despite local press praise, British national newspaper the Daily Mail likened Frank Woolworth to Phineas Taylor Barnum and claimed that the store location had been decided as part of a contingency plan in the event of failure so as to facilitate escape from any financial liability. At the onset of the First World War , F. Stores in the United States, which were then stocking ranges also present in British stores were dependent upon European manufacturers which had adopted newer production methods than their American counterparts.
After the First World War, the company continued to expand with the opening of further branches. By there were branches, and William Lawrence Stephenson — became managing director. He implemented a strategy of major expansion, with the company buying or building freehold properties. Many of the stores had distinctive faience tiled art deco frontages.
The expansion was funded entirely out of earnings and without any borrowing or further capitalisation. The th branch, at Southport, Lancashire, opened on 12 July , and the company was floated on the London Stock Exchange in The US parent company reduced its holding in the company to Expansion was effectively suspended between and , owing to the Second World War and post-war restrictions, but then resumed. On 22 May , the th branch known as "Portslade" to distinguish it from the existing Hove branch opened in Boundary Road, Hove.
The peak of 1, branches was reached in the late s. From then until the US parent sold out in , a number of branches were closed and sold, and at the time that ownership shifted to the UK, there were about 1, branches. Woolworths tried the large out-of-town store or hypermarket format in the s with the Woolco stores. One of Woolworths' flagship stores, on Briggate in Leeds , suffered a major fire in The store, which opened in , was spread over four floors and sustained extensive damage, requiring a total refit.
The store was not open to the public at the time and all staff were evacuated, avoiding fatalities, although some staff suffered minor injuries. It took several hours for the fire to be fully extinguished. Woolworths Group plc was formed by the demerger of Kingfisher's general merchandise business,  and began trading as a listed company on the London Stock Exchange on 28 August , using the symbol WLW.
In October , the Woolworths stores in the Republic of Ireland were closed. In August , market research was undertaken by Woolworths investigating opportunities to re-enter the Republic of Ireland market. About 32 potential locations were identified that could support a Woolworths store. However, the project did not proceed beyond the market research phase. During the s, management rationalised merchandise lines into clearly defined categories: entertainment, home, kids toys and clothing and confectionery.
Many Woolworths branches were downsized during this time. Older branches in major cities were sometimes almost as large as the major department stores nearby. In , for example, Woolworths left its five-floor branch on Briggate in Leeds now occupied by House of Fraser , which it had occupied since , and kept only its smaller single-level branch in the Merrion Centre. This was in an area of the city centre which had less pedestrian traffic, of shoppers who were generally on a lower budget.
In the late s, the management extended the Woolworths brand into other retail formats and alternative channels to accelerate growth by taking advantage of changing retail trends.
Although it was successful at the beginning, the format failed to catch on; the original plan had relied upon leveraging the involvement of other Kingfisher group retailers, but following the de-merger this was no longer possible. Following this, they were rebranded as Woolworths Out of Town stores. The newly independent Woolworths faced severe competitive and financial pressures. The market for physical copies of music, one of Woolworths' main money spinners, shrank in the early 21st century; specialist music chains such as Our Price collapsed.
The major supermarket chains expanded into many of Woolworths' product areas, and the fast-expanding Wilkinson challenged it directly on the high street. Woolworths did not generally follow the trend started in the s of opening stores at out-of-town relocations.
One of its few out-of-town stores opened at the Merry Hill Shopping Centre in , but this closed within a few years due to disappointing trade. In an attempt to raise the group's corporate profile, under the chairmanship of Gerald Corbett , Woolworths sponsored a show garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show in In the middle of the business launched an in-store collection service for items ordered on their website or in-store, to complement the already established in-store ordering system.
In late September , the "Big Red Book" was launched. This was designed to compete directly with the Argos catalogue. Woolworths launched the WorthIt! Woolworths had a strongly unionised workforce, with shop stewards such as Paul Thompson of Unite formerly the Transport and General Workers' Union particularly active in the north of the UK.
Walker's bid did not include Entertainment UK or the stake in 2 Entertain, and also avoided taking on Woolworths' debt and pension liabilities. At the same time, Johnson outlined a possible turnaround plan to sell stores, axe a quarter of its products, reduce web operations and cut jobs.
At that time, the retailer's largest shareholder was Iranian property developer Ardeshir Naghshineh, with a Ardeshir Naghshineh criticised the plan, recommending instead that the company sell some of the stores to raise more funds. The group's banks, GMAC and Burdale , rejected the deal  and recalled their loans, forcing the group to place the retail business and Entertainment UK into administration.
The administrators announced that they were aiming to keep the company as a going concern over the crucial Christmas period, although analysts feared that any heavy discounting would create a domino effect and drag down other high street retailers. Deloitte later announced they had received "substantial interest" in Woolworths. When news of Woolworths' entry into administration was widely publicised, National Lottery operator Camelot Group immediately suspended Woolworths from selling their lottery tickets and scratch cards, as well as preventing claimants from redeeming prizes at the stores.
On 17 December , administrators announced that all Woolworths stores would close by 5 January later changed to 6 January , with 27, job losses. The stores were closed in phases, and the final two closing days were moved back a day to try to sell more of the remaining stock and to ease logistics of closing. The former chief executive of Kingfisher, Woolworths' former parent company, and Ardeshir Naghshineh, a major shareholder of Woolworths, criticised the closures. On 19 January , the owner, Woolworths Group, announced its intention to also enter administration, as it could no longer pay its debts.
The trade unions complained of the collective redundancies and they started various legal actions before the UK tribunals based on the absence of proper consultation of the employee representatives. The UK Court of Appeal referred the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union which partially disagreed with the unions by an important decision of 30 April The account gained almost 6, stories and the reopening was reported by dozens of mainstream British websites, including MailOnline and the Daily Mirror.
The administrators announced on 10 December , that they were having difficulty selling the company as a going concern, and as a result some stores might close before the end of the month.
Talks were still progressing to sell individual stores and leases to a number of retailers, said to include the supermarket chains Morrisons , Tesco , Asda , Sainsbury's , The Co-operative Group and Poundland. The government were also asked in a final attempt to make the deal but without success. Then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown noted that the Government had considered saving Woolworths, but they concluded that it was a "financially unviable" business.
The supermarket chain Iceland bought 51 of the stores on 9 January for an undisclosed sum. In August , the BBC reported that over i. According to press reports on 17 February , Tony Page planned to open a chain of shops adopting the Woolworths format, but under a different name, with an initial 50 stores under the Alworths fascia. The Woolworths store in Dorchester, Dorset was reopened as an independent business named Wellworths by the store manager Claire Robertson. It was later renamed Wellchester.
Wellchester ceased trading in August , after store manager Claire Robertson left to set up her own retail consultancy business. The company announced it would relaunch Woolworths as an online retail store. The website was launched on 26 June It has been closed until further notice since June On 13 October , the company finally dissolved and the website went defunct.
In April , multiple news sources reported that Woolworths may possibly be re-opening, nearly nine years since it closed, after former director Tony Page confirmed interest in acquiring the Woolworths name from Shop Direct.
Many branches of Woolworths suffered severe bomb damage and even destruction during the Luftwaffe attacks in the early part of the Second World War. However it was towards the end of the war that the largest civilian loss of life due to direct enemy fire in Britain during the conflict occurred when, at lunchtime on 25  November , a German V-2 rocket fell on a packed Woolworths store in New Cross Road , killing people including 15 children , injuring others and razing the building to the ground.
The neighbouring London Co-operative Society store was also demolished in the attack. The store was especially busy as news of a delivery of hard-to-obtain saucepans generated huge crowds, many of whom were queueing outside the store at the time of the rocket's impact.
Planning and economic restrictions after the war meant Woolworths did not build a replacement store on the site until ; this closed in It was reported that some employees there felt the building was haunted. Lewisham Council and Woolworths erected a plaque on the site commemorating those who died that day. There is now an Iceland store on the site. During the period from to a series of fires occurred in Woolworths premises which brought into sharp focus the company's complacent attitude towards fire safety, a policy which culminated in a number of fatalities.
On 6 May , a fire broke out at the main distribution depot at Rochdale , Lancashire. The fire soon spread, owing to the failure of the sprinkler system; this led to administration staff frantically dis-assembling the computer and passing parts of it, along with stock cards and other records, out of windows onto waiting lorries.
Over fire fighters attended the blaze and they managed to save two-thirds of the building with no loss of life. On 2 October , a fire broke out in the stockroom of the store at High Street, Colchester. The blaze soon spread to the rest of the store and the building was totally destroyed.
Although all customers and staff were evacuated, subsequent findings blamed a lack of sprinkler system which was not, and still is not, a legal requirement and poor procedures in place for staff to deal with fires and evacuations. A Complete Introduction to Chess. Mick Clarke. The Roots of Led Zeppelin. The Roots of Kings of Leon. The New Sound of Wolfman Jack. Wolfman Jack. The History of Rhythm and Blues The Definitive Elmore James. Soul on Ten. Robben Ford.
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