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Woolworth’s in Germany

The Woolworth’s chain was very much in the news in the run up to Christmas in the UK. Now, it seems, it is the turn of the German Woolworth’s to enter the world of financial turmoil. Last week it was announced that they had registered the company as insolvency – a step that is similar to filing for bankruptcy, whilst at the same time giving them a chance to carry on trading under strict conditions in the hope of finding a solution to their problems.

My first visit to a German branch of Woolworth’s (technically they are called just “Woolworth”) was in Kleve, near the Dutch border, and during my first years in Germany I was a frequent visitor to the store in Bad Homburg. However, in recent years I have rarely gone there except to buy things that I have not been able to get anywhere else. Indeed, the location at the top end of the Louisenstrasse – the main pedestrian area – means that it is somewhat off the beaten track if you are only in the town centre for a short time.

Possibly there lies the problem. Much of the media criticised the UK company as being modern enough, saying that the stores had not moved with the times. The German media has been making the same sort of claims this week, and yet the two companies were completely separate entities.

Whilst the Woolworths Group PLC in the UK had already split from the main US company in 1982, it took until 1998 for the German “DWW Deutsche Woolworth GmbH & Co. OHG” to follow suit. Since then the German company has modernised the cash desks and introduced new store concepts.

But this, it sadly seems, was just not enough.

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