Assessing the Woolworths brand

Each week in association with retail and marketing consultancy Pragma, MarketingWeek.co.uk looks at a high-profile brand, assessing its performance against a range of criteria and offering suggestions to improve its overall score. Marks for each section are given out of five stars, while the overall rating is given at the end of the review.

Brand **

Thirty years ago, Woolworths had a clear role as a destination providing everything for house and home:  kitchenware, tools, paints, haberdashery, toys and a few indulgent pic n mix toffees on the way out. The brand stood for convenience, value and reliability. Today, however, the original core drivers have gone to other retailers who provide customers with more convenience or greater assortments. Woolworths role today is questionable. It should, in theory, still be able to target young people, mums and families with those same values, but the brand has now become synonymous with low price and correspondingly low quality, and so has become reliant on cut-price deals to stimulate footfall.

Experience **

Shopping at Woolworths these days can hardly be described as a pleasure. A cacophony of visual noise bombards you (half price, price crash etc) setting the expectation of cheapness and bargains. Aisles are often cramped and stock piled high, the in-store radio is often loud, as are the gawdy colours of the merchandise. This is not a store conducive to relaxation and browsing. Finding the right product is often frustrating and orientating oneself can be bemusing for the occasional customer. Staff can be helpful but do not always know where products are located.

Product ***

Range rationalisation focusing on key sellers only – confectionery, entertainment, toys, kidswear – has served to undermine the brand over recent years to the extent that some stores give the appearance of glorified sweet shops.  The truth is that with the migration out-of-town of many high-street names Woolworths often remains the core town centre provider of many of lifes necessities. Woolworths thus has a great opportunity to regain ground with its almost unique offer of general merchandise but must ensure that there is a minimum credible range to give acceptable choice within each merchandise category. The stores are trying to sell too much and there are too many cheap and disposable items, and not enough well-priced quality goods.

Value Positioning ***

Woolworths is all about cut-price deals these days. And there are bargains to be had, whether in discounted toys, CDs, books, housewares or electricals. The Ladybird range remains very good value (polo shirts from 1, skirts 2) and reasonable quality; CD and DVDs are available much cheaper online but can be cheaper than other high-street retailers.

Recommendations

Re-establish traditional core brand values with a modern interpretation

Significantly improve store housekeeping: fewer messages, better merchandising

More innovative development of unique/proprietary ranges

More exclusive partnerships with key supplier brands (c.f. Ladybird)

Better overall product quality and fewer opportunistic bargains.

Overall: **

www.pragmauk.com

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