Poundland to Poundstretcher – a brace of Scottish former Woolies
One of the hazards of visiting so many places – and taking so many photos of shops – is that I end up with far more potential blog topics than I ever have time to write about.
Some shots that I’ve had gathering dust since the beginning of May are from when I holidayed in the Scottish Highlands. Old Woolworths – or, in fact, any shops at all – are hard to come by in the wilds of Sutherland, but I did manage to bring in a couple of Woolies visits on the way back home.
First stop was Inverness, where the large former Woolies store at 13-15 High Street (store #233) was still empty when I visited. As Woolworths, the store had traded from the site for more than 80 years, opening on 11 September 1926 and undergoing a ‘reskinning’ in 1964 to give it its current, ‘modern’ appearance.
However, the news that Poundland would be moving into the ground floor of the five-storey property – opening a second Inverness store alongside its existing Eastgate shop – had been reported just the day before my visit. The new Poundland store is now trading, having opened last month.
Almost at the other end of Scotland, the old Woolworths in the delightful seaside town of North Berwick, East Lothian (store #804) – which has been taken over by Poundstretcher – is a much more modest property.
Despite Poundstretcher’s travails – blogged about back in August last year, and reflected in total pre-tax losses for its parent company, Instore, of more than £33m across the last four years – the retailer has picked up quite a few old Woolies stores, including, among others, sites in Camborne, Whitchurch, Hyde, Edinburgh, and several in Northern Ireland. These, along with the rest of the retailer’s estate, are adopting a revamped Poundstretcher fascia, following the abandonment of earlier plans to brand the entire chain as Instore.
These recent acquisitions have helped Poundstretcher to increase its store estate to about 320, still short of the peak of almost 340 that was reached in 2002, but an improvement on the 300 figure from early 2006. However, with Home Bargains and B&M Bargains expanding aggressively on one front (the latter now up to 197 stores, from just 10 in 2000), and single-price retailers Poundland and 99p Stores hammering away at another, it’s hard to know quite where Poundstretcher sits.
As the Retail Week Knowledge Bank sagely concludes, “the serious strategic dilemma facing [Instore's] management is that neither the Instore nor the Poundstretcher format is yet showing any obvious signs of making the required impact on enough consumers for the business to achieve sustainable long-term profitability despite all efforts.”