The Woolworths Group was the British company behind the much-loved Woolworths retail chain, founded in 1909 by Frank Winfield Woolworth. Known affectionately as ‘Woolies’, the company was the main pick-n-mix, school clothes and toys option and had over 800 stores in the UK at the height of its success. However, on November 26, 2008, the group’s stock trading was suspended and the company entered management, with all of its stores closed before January 6, 2009, resulting in 27,000 job losses.
Nearly a decade after its collapse, the iconic retailer was advised to return in 2017, when former director Tony Page revealed that he had planned to buy the name back from its owners.
The businessman said he would bring Woolies back in a “similar format”, but would place stores more in the “heart of the communities” than in large shopping centers.
He told the Daily Star that year: “I am still emotionally attached to him. I still think it has a role in the future.
“I contacted Shop Direct and said, ‘You are no longer using the brand, would you consider giving it to someone who would?'”
Page tried to buy the chain, which went into administration after accumulating nearly £ 400 million in debt, almost immediately after it broke up – even selling the family home in the process.
But its £ 10m bid was topped by Shop Direct, which owns Littlewoods and Very.
The company then managed Woolies as a retail website, before merging it with the Very brand and closing six years later.
When Page approached the company in 2017, he received a blow, as Shop Direct did not respond to his offer.
But the former ASDA director did not lose hope and said in 2019 that he would still be interested in bringing Woolworths back.
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“It was traumatic, without a doubt, and it would take half a day to explain why we couldn’t survive.
“Fundamentally, I think there were some things that didn’t work, like bigger stores in the wrong place.
“I firmly believe that the core of Woolworths, however, was – and still can be – a strong and prosperous business.
“Although, my wife says I’m angry and says ‘why don’t you let it go?’ But I will keep trying.