Christmas comes three weeks early at Woolies

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Christmas will come early for Woolworths this year. The pick 'n' mix retailer yesterday unveiled plans to start stocking its full festive gift range early next month, three weeks ahead of schedule - although it promised not to decorate until November.

Christmas will come early for Woolworths this year. The pick 'n' mix retailer yesterday unveiled plans to start stocking its full festive gift range early next month, three weeks ahead of schedule - although it promised not to decorate until November.

As part of its pre-festive onslaught, the group, which makes 40 per cent of its sales over the holiday period, is launching a digital music download service and adding 3,500 products to its limited online offering.

Woolworths' enhanced range of Christmas gifts, which include men's beauty products and toys such as Bratz dolls, will be available from early October in an attempt to reduce the length of time stores are disrupted. Trevor Bish-Jones, the chief executive, said: "What you won't see is Christmas decorations until the month has an 11 in it, but we shall go gangbusters for Christmas." It will employ staff around-the-clock to get the stores ready.

The group's decision to re-embrace e-commerce comes three years after it lost £10m on an overambitious foray into the online world. "We had 300,000 hits on our corporate website last year looking for toys, but we didn't sell them.... There's no doubt we lost potential sales to other people because they could do online," Mr Bish-Jones said.

Paul Smiddy, at Robert W Baird, said Woolworths' decision to launch a digital download service would "take the wind out of HMV's sails", adding that the music retailer "should really get to the post first on these things".

Mr Bish-Jones was speaking as Woolworths unveiled pre-tax losses of £32.9m for the six months to 31 July, a 6 per cent improvement on last year. The figure included £3.5m it spent on its store makeover programme. Like-for-like sales across the core Woolworths estate rose 0.5 per cent during the period, and 0.4 per cent at its 21 big W out-of-town sites, many of which still have a question mark hanging over their future.

The company is planning to step up the pace of its refurbishment programme, spending £40m on smartening up 75 shops next year. In the six sites that have been renovated, sales rose 9 per cent during the period, while gross margins climbed 70 basis points.

Comments