Grocery giants Asda and Tesco have scooped the lion’s share of defunct variety store group Woolworths’ sales.
Asda is estimated to have seized almost £75m of Woolies’ sales, followed by Tesco, which has picked up nearly £71m. Asda also leads in share of sales of the bust pick ’n’ mix retailer’s key categories such as confectionery and kidswear, where it has bagged additional turnover of £16m and £14m respectively.
Verdict consulting director Neil Saunders said: “The grocers were a main competitor of Woolworths and a cause of its demise. They’ve mopped up across the board from its failure.”
Asda was, ironically, in 1999 poised to team up with Woolworths under a deal proposed by Sir Geoff Mulcahy, boss of Woolies parent Kingfisher. But Kingfisher was jilted at the altar in favour of Walmart.
Saunders said grocers won the most sales from Woolworths because of the overlap in shopper demographics. A family focus, convenience and low price points meant Tesco and, in particular, Asda were well positioned to pick up sales after Woolies hit the wall.
An Asda spokeswoman said it had achieved a “dramatic increase” in toy sales in particular. She said: “We’ve undoubtedly helped plug the gap left by Woolies.”
Woolworths was also threatened by the rise of etail. Shop Direct, which bought the Woolies name, and Amazon have also profited from Woolies’ fall. Amazon is estimated to have gained £10.4m in entertainment sales alone.
Saunders observed that the long list of beneficiaries from Woolies’ failure showed why the variety store group had struggled. “Woolworths had a lot of competitors across a lot of areas,” he said. “That was one of its biggest problems. The extent to which sales have been shared out far and wide illustrates that.”
He said that an opportunity remains in confectionery, where Woolies’ sales have been divided between retailers including Marks & Spencer – estimated to have picked up £2.9m of sales – and WHSmith, thought to have claimed a £4m share, as well as grocers and discounters.
Saunders observed: “Nobody quite matches what Woolworths did with pick ’n’ mix. There’s an opportunity to get into it in a big way.”
Inspired by Woolies
Woolworths’ fall produced a wave of “son of Woolies” start-ups including WeeW, Wellworths and Alworths.
Former store manager Terry Ovenstone opened WeeW in Stornoway, Scotland, and hopes to expand in Scotland’s Highlands and islands. Meanwhile, Wellworths founder Claire Robertson said she is happy with how things are going.
Woolworths.co.uk, run by Shop Direct, has attracted 8 million visitors and sold 517,000 products since launching in June. It is considering reintroducing Woolworths to the high street through franchised stores.
Where Woolworths’ sales have gone
Pound shops £60m
Shop Direct £44.6m
Toys R Us £22.6m
The Entertainer £12.7m
Source: Verdict. All numbers are estimates. All numbers are forecast to the end of 2009, so are gains over the whole year. All numbers are gross transfers to the given retailer and do not include switching away from that retailer to others. The balance of Woolworths sales have either been lost to the market or transferred to other retailers not included in this analysis.
Woolworths stood still for far too long
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Asda and Tesco: winners from Woolworths’ collapse