Variety retailer takes on supermarkets in childrenswear battle
Woolworths is to open standalone Ladybird stores in the UK as the general merchandise retailer exploits the famous kids' brand.

The retailer is close to signing a deal with a franchise partner that will operate the stores. Woolworths believes there is potential for 50 outlets over the next five years if the initial stores do well.

The decision to open Ladybird stores in the UK comes after the success of 35 standalone outlets in the Middle East, Ireland, India, Australia, Hong Kong and China.

Ladybird head of international trading Simon Brown said: 'We have seen how well the Ladybird store concept has performed across our global territories. We are looking forward to applying our learnings to the UK market.'

As well as the UK franchise plan for Ladybird, Woolworths is also opening 92 Ladybird shop-in-shops in its larger stores within the next three months. Trials of dedicated Ladybird areas in Woolworths' stores in Southport and Edgware Road, London have resulted in sales uplifts of 22 per cent against control stores.

Woolworths marketing director Stephen Robertson said: 'We want to do a lot more with Ladybird. It is successful in the UK through Woolworths stores as an own-brand, but the move into standalone [stores] will develop it as a brand in its own right.'

The childrenswear market is worth approximately£6.3 billion, with Ladybird's market share at 3.9 per cent for the year to May, according to TNS .

Ladybird standalone stores in the UK are part of Woolworths' wider plans to continue expanding the brand across the globe. South Africa is on the agenda for next year, while discussions with franchise partners are under way to take Ladybird into Poland, Germany, the US and Canada.

Woolworths acquired the Ladybird licence from Coats Viyella in 1984 and became the exclusive stockist in the UK.

Its sales have been put under pressure in recent years as Tesco and Asda have raised their game in the childrenswear market.

Woolworths is due to give a pre-close trading update next Wednesday.