Lalani Faces Online Competition From Woolworths

The Woolworths home-page(Press Association) – CANVEY ISLANDERS WILL BE PLEASED TO KNOW (although Hussein Lalani, of the High Street’s 99p Store may not) that their beloved Woolworths brands are safe and well — and residing on the Internet.

Britain’s Woolworths brand has made a comeback as an online shop, complete with pic ‘n’ mix sweets and Ladybird children’s clothing.

The site launches with the recognizable Woolies red logo, offering more than 500,000 products across three main categories — toys, childrenswear, entertainment and party.

It opens more than six months after the high street chain collapsed into administration amid plunging sales and mounting debts.

Bosses at parent group Shop Direct, which bought the brand name in February, are hoping the new virtual reincarnation of Woolies will appeal to the family market and tap into the burgeoning trend to shop online. will stock most of the goods seen in the former stores, including CDs, DVDs, children’s party and fancy dress, technology, toys and even the much-loved pic n’ mix sweets. It will also add many products that were too big to sell in-store, such as barbecues, outdoor tables and chairs, as well as family-sized swimming pools. But kettles and ironing boards are out, after the new owners decided not to sell DIY or household goods.

Matthew Hardcastle, who heads the online store, said stock was chosen based largely on feedback from many of the one million customers and Woolies fans that have already contacted the group. It has some 8,000 online followers through Twitter and Facebook, according to the firm.

‘We’ve been talking to families across the country and have responded with a site that delivers the best of what they loved about Woollies,’ said Shop Direct group chief executive Mark Newton-Jones. ‘Families wanted us to bring back Woolies as soon as possible, so that’s what we’ve done,’ he added.

The site is initially split into three areas — party, entertainments and the main shop — with three separate check-outs; although bosses are aiming to integrate them into one by the autumn.

Shop Direct said it had spent ‘several millions of pounds’ bringing Woolworths back.

The new brand owner, Shop Direct, has a range of well-known catalogue brands within its portfolio, including Kays and Marshall Ward. It employs around 10,500 people and has about five million customers.

Shop Direct is owned by Sir David and Frederick Barclay, whose other interests include the Telegraph newspaper group.

… (02/07/2009, Press Association) – 1m shoppers use new Woolies website

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