Woolworths, famed for its pix ‘n’ mix sweets, school clothes and Christmas adverts, could return nearly a decade after its collapse.
Former director of the brand Tony Page has revealed to us he has made an approach to Shop Direct to buy the name back.
He would bring Woolies back in a “similar format” but would place stores more at the “heart of the communities” rather than major shopping centres.
“I am still emotionally attached to it,” he told Daily Star Online, “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?'”
Woolworths went into administration in 2008 after racking up nearly £400 million of debts, resulting in its 800 plus stores closing down.
Tony tried to buy the brand after its collapse – selling his family home in the process – but his £10 million bid was trumped by Shop Direct.
The company, which owns Littlewoods and Very, then ran Woolies as a retail site, before closing it six years later and merging the name with its Very brand.
But now Tony believes Woolies has “effectively been put on ice”, he is looking into buying the name, believing it could survive despite the ongoing casualties of the recession.
“They have taken the website down, so I’m curious now as to what might happen next because I still think the brand has got some propriety in spite of what happened in the past,” he told Daily Star Online.
“I feel as though if the brand name was available it would still be a possibility to bring it back (to our high streets).”
He aded: “I still absolutely think it would still be a physical retailer.
“I would want it to be much more a part of the community. The stores the reality used to do well were those that were at the heart of the community, rather than being in the big shopping centres.
“It is much easier to walk down the road than to order on Amazon.”
After failing to buy Woolworths the first time, Tony – who started his career at Sainsbury’s as a buyer of fresh produce – took on a director role at Russian supermarket Lenta.
The former ASDA director then returned to the UK with his family to become an MD at Lloyd Pharmacy in 2011, before being name a director at cycling accessories retailer Wiggle.
But after taking on the chief executive role at discount department store The Original Factory Shop in 2013, Tony just last month decided to call it a day to focus on spending time with his wife and two children.
Talking to Daily Star Online from his Yorkshire home, he admits that he still carries the pain of Woolworths’ collapse – which resulted in 27,000 job losses – and has a clearer idea on why it didn’t survive.
“It was a huge disappointment when Woolies closed,” he told us, “people had worked there for decades, and for them they had lost their careers, jobs and their livelihoods.
“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 let it go?’.”
Tony has yet to receive a response from Shop Direct at the time of publication, but told us “I will keep trying”.
Woolworths started out in the UK in 1909 as part of American company F.W Woolworth & Co which was established in 1879.
The first store in Britain was on Church Street in Liverpool and sold children’s clothing, stationary and toys from the beginning.
It was in the mid-1920s when it took off, with stores opening every two to three weeks.
And by 1934 the 600th British Woolworth opened in Wellington, Surrey just four years after the 400th in Southport, Lancashire.
A major expansion programme saw the chain grow by more than 250 outlets between 1954 and 1958.
At the peak stores opened at the rate of one every four days, and by 1958 virtually every high street in Britain and Ireland had a Woolworths.
But in 1979 devastation struck when the flagship Woolworth store in Manchester was gutted by a major fire, killing 10 customers and colleagues.
Media coverage was huge as live TV showed colleagues at barred windows on the upper floors unable to escape, amid rumours fire exits had been locked.
Further fires in Worcester and Wimbledon presented further blows to the brand’s reputation, which ultimately resulted in a takeover in 1982.
Fast forward to 2006 and the brand made its first loss in over 90 years, forcing bosses to take on new team members.
Tony Page was one of the fresh faces, who introduced the WorthIt! range, which saw sales hit £1 million a week and resulted in increased customer numbers for the first time in a decade.
But despite his efforts, the overall losses kept on coming, and when the financial crash came in 2008, Woolworths fell victim.
And in just four waves, all its stores closed for the final time from December 27 to January 8.