Site Map   Help   

The Woolworths Museum logo(click for the home page)

 -  -  -  -  -


A new look large town centre store format in 2002


To put the new values and strategy into effect, a high powered team of in-house marketeers and designers from an Agency called '10/10' came up with a new look to test in some of the firm's larger stores in the major towns. The limited lead-time left little scope to develop new product ranges in time for the first trial. But, nonetheless, the new layout was a giant leap forward.

The first new-look Woolworths after demerger - Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire, which just happened to be the in the CEO's home town

The first new '10/10' in Hertfordshire's Hemel Hempstead was bold and modern when it was revealed in October 2002. At the front, one of the two main entrances was converted to become an illuminated enclosed window. A red neon fascia featured the firm's name in lower case letters for the first time.

The opening attracted a big crowd, who struggled through major roadworks in the street to take a look inside. By the end of the first Saturday's trading most items in the front section of the store had sold out. It seemed the format was winner.


Examples from the interior of an early 10/10 format store


Inside, the store was stylish and distinctive. A bright red area formed a curved central gangway, contrasting with a beige cream floor. The counters were arranged in a herringbone (diagonal) pattern, stretching out from the main aisle.

The fixtures were enhanced with colour keyed panelling to mark out the different ranges. Bold feature displays every few bays on the wall, known as beacons, provided a showcase for the best items in each range. Purpose-built fixtures displayed clothing, shoes, pic'n'mix and entertainment to advantage. The pièces de resistance were new two metre (6'6") tall card racks made from modern metal and translucent plastic, which were backlit, at the centre of the salesfloor. 'Celebrations' had arrived and looked spectacular. Orange footstools and other child-friendly features added the finishing touches.

To complete the picture, the traditional flourescent lighting had been rebated behind a suspended ceiling, topped up by spotlights which picked out key areas and special lights to simulate daylight above each of the wall counters.

Clever positioning of the cash desks in the space previously occupied by a second set of entrance and exit doors was an example of the good design that helped to squeeze twenty percent more display space into the same salesfloor. The layout also afforded the opportunity to introduce a single queueing system.

These cosmetic enhancements were only part of the change. The space given to each range was very different from the chain's traditional layout. Sweet displays were condensed, squeezing the same range into a much smaller space at the front of the store. Entertainment remained about a quarter of the overall footprint and was demoted to a back-of-store location. New aspirational ranges included computers, TVs, and an enlarged mobile phone offer. Clothing and toys were doubled in size and range and were given prime space at the front of the store.

In contrast the home department was much smaller and the merchandise mix had shifted away from Home Repair in favour of Home Adornment, with vases, frames and textiles scaled up. and paint, tools and hardware cut back. A new range of small home appliances was added to the kitchen shop.


Customer reaction to the new look was generally positive, with the new store showing a sales uplift of more than twenty percent compared with its predecessor. In general comment was more favourable from younger customers than old-age pensioners and from women than men. Most children also preferred the new layout - with one describing the store as a "treasure trove of toys and fun".

The consensus view was that prices were higher as a result of the more luxurious shopfit. This wasn't true - no price had changed directly as a result of the upgrade. The perception resulted from the change in product mix, which included more high price and less bargain lines than before. Cards for example were higher quality, attracting premium prices compared with the previous mid-market range.


A new look Woolies in High Street, Kettering, Northamptonshire in 2002

After a guided tour, City Analysts declared themselves impressed. The CEO had found a winning formula, and deserved time to refine it and roll it out, they declared.

As a result plans were laid for further trials at the similarly-sized store in Kettering and a smaller one in Market Harborough.

A new look Woolies in The Square, Market Harborough, Leicestershire in 2002

Results in the Kettering store were even better than at Hemel Hempstead, with the store recording double digit sales increases every week and very positive feedback from customers. But the Market Harborough store struggled. It soon became clear that the new look was well suited to the larger stores but made the smaller stores too congested. Tall fixtures like the card racks blocked sightlines towards the back of the store, while the revised adjacencies led to blockages in the front and middle of the store that prevented customers from getting to the back departments on busy days. As a result it was agreed that the conversion programme would be limited to branches of 12,000 square feet (approximately 1,115m2) or more. A solution for the smaller stores was not considered a priority. A programme of economies meant that these cash-cows were allowed to deteriorate and crumble as the decade continued.


The large Woolworths store in Market Place, Kingston-Upon-Thames, South West London, was transformed from one the chain's worst to the very best in October 2003

To perfect the formula, three stores in outer London suburbs were tackled during 2003. Two were given cheaper versions of the refit, with store colleagues scrubbing and polishing existing fixtures so they could be re-used, as professionals reinstated the floor and ceiling. The results in both Redhill, Surrey and Uxbridge, Middlesex, were good but not great.

The store in the Market Place at Kingston, South West London was chosen for the acid test. The 22,000 square foot (2,050 m2) building was larger than any attempted before. It was gutted, reinstated and refitted with new counters throughout. The Group FD set stringent financial criteria for the work; Christopher Rogers insisted that the 10/10 layout must prove it would deliver a good return on the investment before he would commit funds for roll-out.

The Kingston store looked magnificent on its opening day, which was captured on film. The General Manager Mark Buschhaus and his team glowed with pride as customers surged in to see the miraculous transformation. The whole Board had turned out for the opening. If any needed convincing, they only had to listen to the customers that day. One lady declared 'it's much nicer in here than John Lewis', while the consensus view from shoppers was that the store looked larger and brighter and had much better products than before. Sales rose by 30% and the new mix of products also had significantly higher margins, helping to seal the deal. Between 2004 and 2006 the formula was extended to almost 200 stores - a quarter of the whole company.


Shortcuts to related content in the Woolworths Museum

2000s Gallery

2000s Overview    Death by Demerger    New values and a new direction    Visit a Big W store

Market Towns and City Centres     The Smaller Stores    Multi-Channel Retail    Wholesale & Media    WorthIt! Value Comeback

Launch of the Virtual Museum    Meet the team    The Lighter Side    Wooly & Worth    Collapse and Rescue


Museum Navigation

Home Page    Recent History Gallery     Visit the new Woolworths on-line