The Barclays’ firm Shop Direct Group will add the Woolworths brand to its portfolio of British mail-order names including Littlewoods, Great Universal Stores and Empire.
Woolworths went into administration last November with debts of £385m. All 807 of the company’s stores were closed with nearly 30,000 redundancies. But ex-employees are unlikely to be re-hired by Shop Direct Group, as the £1.6bn-turnover firm already has a mail-order infrastructure in place.
The brand-spanking new Woolworths website will go live in a few months time. Mark Newton-Jones, chief executive of Shop Direct, has high hopes for the relaunch: "[The brand] engenders huge affection among British consumers," he says.
The Barclay brothers are historically acquisitive, having bought Littlewoods from the Moores family for £750m in 2002, and the mail-order arm of Great Universal Stores in 2003 for £590m.
The Barclay brothers also own the UK’s Telegraph newspaper group and London’s Ritz hotel, as well as a five per cent stake in InterContinental Hotels.