LONDON – Woolworths Group PLC, one of the last remaining pieces of America’s F.W. Woolworth Company, might have a saviour for its brand.
While the company, which is in bankruptcy administration, would be shut down, there are apparently groups interested in the company’s intellectual property, including the brand. In addition, many of the company’s top stores are also of interest, according to the Wall Street Journal’s Lilly Vitorovich.
Woolworths employs about 27,000, and there is little hope for those jobs, but the company’s receiver, Deloitte & Touche, says that they have been in discussion with various parties interested in buying the Woolworths intellectual property, including the name. It’s a tragic end to the almost 100-year-old icon; even the Queen herself tells stories of shopping at Woolworth’s during the war.
If this happens, it would be a good move. In a previous post, we suggested that buying a few of the top performing stores, as well as the brand, would be a smart move for one of the American dollar store companies, including Dollar Tree, Dollar General or Family Dollar. Another good partner might be Target, which could leverage a few of the locations into a smaller, urban format that might work in Europe. In fact, one of the major strategic errors of the American and British Woolworth chains was getting away from discounting.
If the brand is sold, it would be good to couple it with a few of the company’s stores; in any situation with a company, having a continuous link with the previous company, however small, makes for a more authentic rebirth.
There are numerous precedents for rebuilding companies after shut down, the most prominent being Abercrombie and Fitch.
We wrote a few weeks ago:
If the retail part of the company is somehow to be rescued at the last minute (and there is always still hope), they might look to America’s discounters like Chesapeake, Va.-based Dollar Tree (NASDAQ:DLTR), Dollar General or Charlotte, N.C.-based Family Dollar (NYSE:FDO) as a potential model for how to operate. Or even better, one of these American chains, which have recently had good run-ups in share price during the recession, could use the problems in the U.K. as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to buy one of the world’s best known brands and gain a foothold in some of the top retail locations.
In a poll we took last year, Marshall Fields and Woolworths were the top two department store brands that Americans missed.
Read our posts on the issue of reviving dead or dying brands:
It is sad that Woolworths is closing down after 99 years. Perhaps there is scope to reflect on why this disaster happened in the first place! After 11 years there are Americans still mourning the loss of the US Woolworths—-perhaps in time Woolworths will again re-emerge better in tune with the 21st century retail market. Start out with smaller stores in strategic areas where there is less competition, then see what happens.