Alworths, the variety store that sprung from the ashes of Woolworths, enjoyed a record week last week as it hits its first year anniversary today.
The retailer, set up by former Woolworths head of stores and concessions Andy Latham, has laid out plans for 200 stores in the UK in the long term. It has 14 currently and plans to open three more before Christmas, in Newark-on-Trent, Maidenhead and Bellshill, Glasgow.
“We’ve had a good year,” said Latham, who would not give details of the chain’s financial performance. “It’s still tough on the high street, but we’re trading in line with expectations, which is encouraging.”
He added that the retailer enjoyed its best week in terms of volume last week, with sales up 20% compared with the week before, as Halloween and half term helped drive sales.
“It bodes really well for us in the run-up to Christmas,” said Latham. “We’re really upbeat about Christmas. Next year will still be tough, but we’ll continue to control costs, and differentiate ourselves with customer service.”
Two years on from the demise of one of the nation’s most iconic chains, Latham said there is “still demand for variety retailing on the local high street”. He is targeting market towns. “We can re-energise these high streets,” he said.
Latham said he is “still considering” a value clothing offer. The successful Ladybird brand was sold by administrator Deloitte to Shop Direct Group in February 2009. It also purchased the Woolworths brand and subsequently launched an online shop.
Last week Shop Direct forced Wellworths - the store set up by a former Woolworths store manager - to change its name to Wellchester, in order to “protect” its brand.
Latham said he could not comment on any discussions that he was having with Shop Direct but there is speculation that the home shopping giant may target Alworths next.
Latham obtained investment through Middle Eastern family connections, and he said his backers remain “very supportive”.