Almost half of consumers would not miss Woolworths if it disappeared from the high street, research commissioned by Retail Week has revealed.

The poll, conducted by ICM, found that 43 per cent of respondents would not miss the variety store group if it no longer existed, while 42 per cent said they would miss it “a little”; 14 per cent said they would miss it “a lot”.

The results are another indication of the scale of the challenge facing new chief executive Steve Johnson, who joined the company at the beginning of the month.

Last week, the retailer revealed first-half pre-tax losses of£99.7 million for the 26 weeks to August 2, compared with a£63.8 million loss for the same period last year.

A Woolworths spokeswoman said: “We remain convinced there is a future for a successful variety store offering great value. Under Steve Johnson we have started to take the actions necessary to ensure Woolworths stores become more attractive to our customers.”

At the time of its interim results, Woolworths’ auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers said that there were “material uncertainties, which may cast significant doubt about the company’s ability to continue as a going concern”.

First-half like-for-like retail sales fell 3.2 per cent, although trade has picked up, with like-for-likes up 0.4 per cent for the first six weeks of the second half.

Patrick Woodall, managing director of retail consultancy Pragma, said: “I’m not surprised at this result. 15 years ago these numbers would have been very different – there was fondness and nostalgia for Woolies then.”