Woolworths is to be reborn as a serious player in the online entertainment market under the ownership of Shop Direct.

Shop Direct Group chief executive Mark Newton-Jones said he plans to introduce an online download offer when the brand relaunches as Woolworths.co.uk in the summer. It will run alongside childrenswear, after the group also acquired Ladybird.

The rescue of the Woolworths brand name for an undisclosed amount followed the public demise of the 99-year-old, 800-store retailer after it hit the buffers in November.

Newton-Jones defended the acquisition by Shop Direct Group’s owners the Barclay brothers, which came days after the retailer announced it had entered a consultation period with 1,150 staff at its Merseyside call centre that could result in its closure.

“It is really difficult for the team but the business is changing,” said Newton-Jones. He said the acquisition reflects that retail is moving increasingly online.

Shop Direct Group is examining what Woolworths customers want from the new e-tail site as more than 25,000 people made suggestions through the holding page for the site on its first day online. Newton-Jones said he would look at offering pick-and-mix sweets free with deliveries.

The buy quashed former Woolworths stores chief Tony Page’s hopes to acquire the business, as revealed by RW Online (January 30). He had secured backing and hoped to reopen some stores.