Future unclear for ‘son of Woolworths’ as founder resigns as director and restructuring looms.
Alworths, founded in 2009 by former Woolworths head of store and concession development Andy Latham, is being restructured and a change of ownership is underway. Industry sources fear a pre-pack administration is on the cards.
Documents filed at Companies House last week showed that Latham has resigned as a director and Alworths’ registered office address has been changed to “care of” a solicitors in Redhill, where the retailer is headquartered.
At the same time a new company, Retail Acquisitions, was set up and is expected to take control of Alworths. Latham is one of its directors as is Chris Althorp-Gormlay, a boss of private equity business SKG Capital. SKG typically focuses on turnaround situations and last year bought furniture retailer Mark Elliot out of administration.
No comment was available from Latham or Althorp-Gormlay. Alworths said in an email: “We can confirm Andy is still managing the business. We are currently restructuring elements of the company.”
Alworths, which has 17 stores, opened its first shop on November 5, 2009, almost a year after Woolworths’ demise and on what would have been the 100th anniversary of Woolworths’ debut in the UK.
The retailer was pitched as the heir to the Woolworths mantle, stocking goods such as pic ‘n’ mix, homewares and seasonal products, and some of its stores are in former Woolworths’ premises.
The name used Latham’s initials and was deliberately reminiscent of Woolworths - the reference prompted a threat of legal action from Shop Direct, which had resurrected the Woolworths brand online.
Latham said in an interview last autumn: “The feedback we are getting suggests Woolworths is still greatly missed by consumers, particularly at this time of year, and despite a whole raft of pretenders to the Woolies throne, Alworths is the real deal.”
Latham originally envisaged 50 shops, later seeing potential for 200, concentrating on small market towns where Woolworths previously thrived. By sticking to these areas, he was confident Alworths would not fail in the same way as Woolworths did.