Two pairs of Wellies?
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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.
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.