Woolworths back from dead in online-only reincarnation

The Woolworths name has risen back from the dead, with reports that it has been bought up by online retailer Shop Direct and re-launched as an online brand.

Shop Direct owns brands like Littlewoods and Kays, and is owned by entrepreneurial brothers David and Frederick Barclay, who also own the Daily Telegraph.

The historic High Street chain went into administration in October, and closed in December of last year with hundreds of millions pounds of debt.

It had to close all of its 800-plus stores, resulting in the loss of 27,000 jobs. As it will be online-only it is unlikely Shop Direct will need to employ anywhere near that number for the new brand.

"Woolworths is a much-loved brand that engenders huge affection among British consumers and is an important part of the country's retail heritage," said Shop Direct's chief executive Mark Newton-Jones in an interview with Reuters.

"In what will be Woolworths' 100th year, we are proud to be reviving the brand for future generations."

Woolworths is just one of a string of retailers to be hit by the recession, in addition to increasing competition by supermarkets and online retailers.

A summer launch is being mooted for the new online store.