‘It has future role’ How Woolworths boss teased high street return
The Woolworths Group was the British company behind the much-adored high street retail chain Woolworths, founded in 1909 by Frank Winfield Woolworth. Known affectionately as ‘Woolies,’ the company was the go-to for pick-n-mix, school clothes and toys and had more than 800 stores in the UK at the height of its success. But on November 26, 2008, trading of shares in the group was suspended, and the company entered administration, with all its stores closed before January 6, 2009, resulting in 27,000 job losses.
Nearly a decade after its collapse though, the iconic retailer was tipped to return in 2017, when former director Tony Page revealed he had made plans to buy the name back from its owners.
The businessman claimed he would bring Woolies back in a “similar format” but would place stores more at the “heart of the communities” rather than in major shopping centres.
He told the Daily Star that year: ”I am still emotionally attached to it. I still think it has got a role in the future.
“I have contacted Shop Direct and said, ‘you’re not using the brand anymore, would you consider giving it to someone who would?'”
Mr Page tried to buy the chain, which went into administration after racking up nearly £400million in debts, almost immediately after it fell apart – even selling his family home in the process.
But his £10million bid was trumped by Shop Direct, which owns Littlewoods and Very.
The company then ran Woolies as a retail site, before merging it with the Very brand and closing down six years later.
When Mr Page approached the company in 2017 he was served a blow, as Shop Direct failed to respond to his offer.
But, the former ASDA director did not give up hope and said in 2019 that he would still be interested in bringing Woolworths back.
He told Daily Star Online: “I’ve got no plans right now (to make another approach), but if the brand was available – maybe!
“If I get some spare time to focus on it I may have another go at pursuing.”
Mr Page admitted that he carries the pain of Woolworths’ collapse, but also has a clear idea of why it did not survive.
He added: “It was a huge disappointment when Woolies closed.
“People had worked there for decades, and for them, they had lost their careers, jobs and their livelihoods.
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“It was traumatic, without a shadow of a doubt, and it would take half a day to explain why we couldn’t survive.
“Fundamentally I think there were just some things that didn’t work, such as larger shops in the wrong place.
“I strongly believe the core of Woolworths, however, was – and still could be – a strong and prosperous business.
“Although, my wife would say I am mad and say ‘why don’t you just let it go?’ But, I will keep trying.”
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