Two pairs of Wellies?

Wellworths store in Dorchester. Photograph by Nigel Mykura

Wellworths store in Dorchester. Photograph by Nigel Mykura

I was interested to read on This is Money a few days ago that Claire Robertson of Wellworths fame is apparently in talks with “unnamed venture capitalists” (are they ever not unnamed?) over funding for expansion. The article claims that the Dorchester-based enterprise is hoping to open up three more former Woolies stores before the end of 2009.

This is good news if it’s true – towns across the south of England seem to have been clamouring for their very own Wellies – but like any new business, Wellworths will need to be careful not to grow too quickly and beyond its means. After all, the rapid expansion and equally rapid demise of DVD retailer Silverscreen is a reminder of what can go wrong.

In the meantime, one useful thing that Wellworths could and should do is to give itself a proper online presence. The company cannily made sure that it registered the domain names wellworths.com and wellworths.co.uk before anybody else could, but these currently point only to a holding page. Given the public and media interest in the business, this seems like a wasted opportunity.

Wellworths.co.uk holding page

Wellworths.co.uk holding page

Of course it would be unrealistic for Wellies to actually trade online, but it would be great to have a simple but decent quality website that provides details of what the store sells and what it’s opening hours are. It would also be a good move to have a blog or news section, giving Claire and her staff an opportunity to update on new developments and promotions instore.

Wellworths’ launch was a masterclass in effective use of PR, but it’s important not to let things slip as the business develops – the interest and goodwill is still there, so why not capitalise on it?

Incidentally, the main topic of the article mentioning Wellworths’ reported expansion is the departure of Shop Direct’s group trading director, David Inglis. Shop Direct, of course, has recently relaunched Littlewoods Direct as Very, and is also behind the recent high profile relaunch of Woolworths as an Internet-only retailer. The article, perhaps unfairly, tries to make some link between Inglis leaving and “speculation that the [Woolworths.co.uk] business was in difficulty” – as far as I’m aware there’s no evidence that the new Woolworths operation is struggling, but it will of course be fascinating to see how it fares over the coming months.

With Wellies on the high street and the new Woolies online, it’s easy to forget about another proposed reincarnation – former Woolworths commercial director Tony Page’s plan to “relaunch the company in all but name” with a potentially 200-strong chain of as-yet-unnamed variety stores. Page’s plans seem to have gone a little quiet of late, but his latest Twitter post, from 13 July, suggests that they are still ongoing – “lots of empty property to fill, and jobs to create”, he writes, with the promise that “We’re working hard on it”. Let’s wait and see if Page is as good as his word.

Thank you to Nigel Mykura for the use of the photograph of Wellworths, which is © Copyright Nigel Mykura and licensed for re-use under the Creative Commons Licence.

9 Responses to “Two pairs of Wellies?”

  1. Ben Waugh said:

    Aug 07, 09 at 22:00

    Hi. I read a few of your other posts and wanted to know if you would be interested in exchanging blogroll links?

  2. Graham Soult said:

    Aug 07, 09 at 22:10

    Sure – would be happy to!

  3. Soult's Retail View» Blog Archive » Alworth the wait? The latest ‘Son of Woolworths’ opens its second shop said:

    Nov 13, 09 at 23:13

    [...] the ashes of Woolworths, though speculation remains that Clare Robertson’s much-celebrated Wellworths might expand beyond Dorchester before [...]

  4. Soult's Retail View» Blog Archive » Woolworths to make a high street return? said:

    Nov 23, 09 at 23:54

    [...] claim that Woolworths has already been brought back to the high street in the form of Alworths, Wellworths or the like. The difference here is that Shop Direct actually owns the Woolworths brand – [...]

  5. Soult's Retail View» Blog Archive » The fight to be Woolworths’ heir said:

    Jan 08, 10 at 20:13

    [...] piece covers some of the same themes as my own blog posts about Wellworths, Alworths and Shop Direct’s Woolworths brand, but gives some new and interesting insights [...]

  6. Soult's Retail View» Blog Archive » Out of the ruins of Faith comes Hope said:

    Jun 29, 10 at 13:58

    [...] always good to hear of a retailer that is rising from the ashes, Wellworths-style, so I was pleased to read in The Appointment magazine about the enterprising staff of the former [...]

  7. Soult's Retail View» Blog Archive » Shop Direct’s move to protect the Woolies brand – Wellworth the bad press? said:

    Nov 03, 10 at 00:00

    [...] week’s news that the celebrated Wellworths store, in Dorchester, is being forced to change its name by Shop Direct reignites one of the most [...]

  8. Soult's Retail View » As Wellworths becomes Wellchester, Claire Robertson talks tweaking and expansion said:

    Sep 16, 11 at 15:56

    [...] – and I’ve racked up about 140 so far – there can be few ex-Woolies sites more celebrated than the one in Dorchester (store [...]

  9. Soult's Retail View » The discount retailers dominating Suffolk’s ex-Woolworths sites said:

    Aug 14, 12 at 11:18

    [...] an ex-Peacocks, while its ex-Co-op department store was reopened by former staff and management, Wellworths-style, following Vergo Retail’s collapse in 2010 – the same event that [...]


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