Pic c/o freefoto.com
Odd that today we get the news that the UK retailer Woolworth's has gone into administration. I have fond memories of the long, wide and curiously empty aisles of this jumble of a store near where I grew up in North London.
Apparently the cause of the collapse is a sudden removal of their trade credit insurance which meant that the business had to pay cash for any goods it wanted to sell and it simply ran out of road in cashflow terms; the death-knell seems to have been sounded by Camelot (the UK lottery operator) pulling its services out of the business.
But the problem goes back decades: having worked with Woolies in the past, it has always seemed the business' real purpose was to allow the competing buying departments to carry on doing what they wanted: video, music, pick-n-mix, household, kids clothes, toys, paint etc. The store assortment never really made any sense, the staff didn't seem to be driven by any particular passion and the marketing largely was forced to flip-flop around without ever really expressing the beating heart of the business. In the end, I suspect the business was – like all too many retail chains who lose their way – a business driven by the property division.
Unlike Superdrug (once a sister retailer at Kingfisher plc) which we repurposed to be about sharing the fun of Health and Beauty (without the orange-faced salesgirls of rival Boots).
So here's the question to ponder while Gordie does his bit to protect staff and suppliers: what do you think Woolies' purpose idea should be? What idea would you suggest to drive it's revival?