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Managing in Troubled Times Case Study

Case Title:

UKs Woolworths Retail Chain: End of a Long Journey?

Publication Year : 2010

Authors: P Johnson, S Chaganty

Industry: Retailing


Case Code: TRT0107IRC

Teaching Note:  Available

Structured Assignment:  Available

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Woolworths, a general merchandising retail chain, attained popularity in the UK selling an assortment of merchandise at low prices. The chain mushroomed all over the country and reaped hefty profits in its early days. The chain was well known for its trademark pic 'n' mix sweets and also for its children's clothes and school uniforms. Woolworths sold almost everything for everyone but this area of strength eventually became the Achilles heel of the chain. The chain lost focus, with no unique selling point, and became jack of all trades but master of none. Intense competition from supermarkets and on-line retailers further weakened the chain's market position. Woolworths failed to evolve with changing times and was not successful in satisfying the next generation's consumer needs. Woolworths' chain was burdened by a heavy debt and it finally crumbled under its own weight. It went into administration leaving the future of hundreds of stores and thousands of jobs uncertain. The case discusses the success journey of Woolworths along with the factors that led to its downfall. The case also focuses on the revival attempts of the chain and the reasons for their failure.

Pedagogical Objectives:

  • To analyse the UK retail industry and trends in consumer behaviour.
  • To analyse the reasons for the success and failure of the legendary Woolworths chain.
  • To aanalyse the attempts made by the chain for revival and the reasons behind their failure.

Keywords : UK retail chain; Pic 'n' mix sweets; General merchandising; Five and Dime store; Complacency; Do-it-yourself; Kingfisher; Out of town stores; Competition; Administration; Retail landscape; Consumer trends; Trade insurance cover; Woolworths; Failing brand


  • Woolworths UK: The Success Journey
  • The Decline

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