When did Woolworths close and who owns it? | The Sun

WOOLWORTHS was as British as fish and chips until the high street staple closed its doors for good over a decade ago, much to the dismay of its army of loyal shoppers.

Here we take a deeper look at Woolies' history and who owns the bankrupt brand's assets now. 

When did Woolworths close?

Woolworths fell into administration in 2008, with all 807 of the retailer’s stores closing by January the following year.

The retailer, famous for its pick-n-mix sweetie selection, was a high street stalwart and sold a variety of products from kitchen supplies to gardening equipment and clothing.

People of a certain age still fondly remember the 1970s advertising jingle: "That's the wonder of Woolworths."

But Woolworths faced spiralling losses as online retail grew and the firm faced difficulties with its suppliers, according to reports.



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It was laden with £385million of debt at the time of its collapse, which left more than 27,000 unemployed.

The sites closed in phases:

  • 207 on December 27, 2008
  • 37 on December 29, 2008
  • 164 on December 30, 2008
  • 200 on January 3, 2009
  • 199 on January 6, 2009

The majority of the premises are now owned by other discount chains including Poundland and Iceland, with the latter reportedly buying 51 of Woolworth's former locations.

Who owns Woolworths?

Woolworths opened its first UK store in Liverpool in 1909, as a subsidiary of US parent company FW Woolworth.

The original American firm was founded in 1879 when Frank Woolworth, a sales assistant, opened a shop in the state of Pennsylvania.

Woolies, as it became known, officially came under British ownership in 1982 when it was acquired by Paternoster Stores Ltd.

In 2009, Littlewoods owner Shop Direct bought the trademark and sold to customers online through Woolworth.com.

The company ran the retail website but closed it six years later in 2015 and merged it into its Very brand.

Is Woolworths opening again in the UK?

Rumours of a possible comeback for the retailer were sparked by a mysterious tweet from an account named "Woolworths UK" on October 27, 2020. 

The tweet read: “Here to save 2020! Woolworths is coming back to your high street, as a physical store!”

The account on the site formally known as Twitter — now rebranded as X — was not verified and the messages were littered with spelling errors, leading many to assume it was hoax, which turned out to be the case. 

Errors the hoax tweets included misspelling Woolworths as 'Woolsworths'.

The account said Woolworths was returning to the high street with three trial stores due to open in late 2021, but didn't confirm where these would be located — and ultimately the stores never opened.

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It added: "Very owns the online Woolsworths, so we will be retail only.

"Before we launch we have a few legal contracts to sign, but we’re super excited!"

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A spokesperson for Shop Direct, which rebranded to The Very Group in 2019, told The Sun: "We own the Woolworths trademark in the UK.

"The Twitter account UKWoolworths is not connected to The Very Group."

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