The long and winding history of the Woolworths brand -- endearlingly known as Woolies in Britain -- goes on with the news that ShopDirect, owner of Littlewoods and Marshall Ward, has bought the brand and will resurrect it as a online retail operation.
The five-and-dime began as the creation of Pennsylvania-born Frank Woolworth in 1878 and nearly 30 years later was expanded to the U.K., with the opening of a Liverpool store. While the last of Woolworths department stores in North America closed more than a decade ago, the brand went on in Britain, running autonomously since 1982. But late last year it too went out of business thanks to a heavy debt load, shuttering hundreds of stores in the U.K. and putting 30,000 out of work.
Enter the Barclay brothers, whose ShopDirect today announced the brand would live on. Sales will begin in the summer. Andy Wade, an analyst at Numis Securities in London, told the International Herald Tribune: "Woolworths still has strong value and reputation as a brand. And by reinventing it online, ShopDirect gets that trusted name but also loses the major problems like a massive store portfolio. It's a really good move."
It's worth noting that Woolworths stores still exist in numerous places worldwide, from South Africa to Mexico, in a variety of forms.