Big W (United Kingdom)
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|Subsidiary of Woolworths (2001–04)|
|Genre||Large Format Store|
|Fate||Format abandoned, re-branded as Woolworths|
|Headquarters||England, United Kingdom|
Number of locations
|Owner||Kingfisher (1998–01) |
Big W was a large format chain of megastores owned by the Kingfisher Group (later Woolworths Group PLC). This chain consisting of Kingfisher's British retail chains, which were Comet, B&Q, Superdrug and Woolworths in one large megastore. Even though Woolworths scrapped the brand name in 2004, they continued to operate 14 of the stores and all of them but one remained until the administration in 2008. Despite sharing the name with the Australian chain Big W, they are not related, being owned by two different companies. Big W's tagline was A lot for not a lot.
In 1967, The F.W. Woolworth Company opened their first British Woolco store in Oadby, Leicestershire. The store was 63,000 sq.ft and offered many products like groceries, fashion and household products. Woolworth later opened 2 more stores in Thornaby, Stockton on Tees and Bournemouth, Hampshire. They were all successful and eventually Woolworth had a 12 store chain under the Woolco name. When the F.W. Woolworth Company spun off the British Woolworth chain into its own company in 1983, the Woolco stores were later converted to regular Woolworth stores, and then the company sold them off to Supermarket chain Gateway in 1986. Gateway then sold the stores once more, this time to Asda in 1988. The remaining former Woolco stores remain under Asda ownership to this day.[when?]
In 1980, Woolworth acquired the DIY chain B&Q, which at its peak had 26 stores. In 1982, Both the British Woolworth and B&Q chains were split from the F.W. Woolworth Company into Woolworth Holdings PLC. The company expanded by acquiring the Comet Group in 1984 and then Superdrug in 1987. Woolworth Holdings PLC was renamed Kingfisher Group PLC in 1989 to focus less on the Woolworths brand.
In 1998, the CEO of Kingfisher Group, Sir Geoffrey Mulcahy publicly revealed Big W, a chain of stores that would combine Kingfisher's four main brands. This chain was similar to Woolco, and featured products from Woolworths, Superdrug, Comet and B&Q in one massive structure. The four chains supplied everything for Big W except for adult clothing and groceries. In the same year, Kingfisher's headhunters found someone who would run the Big W chain. The Canadian-born Bob Hetherington was chosen to Run Big W. He had experience with the American F.W. Woolworth Company as he had previously run the American Woolco chain before it closed down. Hetherington wanted the Big W stores to be fun places to shop in and to offer entertainment during the weekend.
A location in Edinburgh, Scotland was chosen to be the first Big W location. Construction started in September 1998, and the store opened in June 1999, and was a success for the Kingfisher Group. Kingfisher later opened up stores in other locations, such as Stockton, Bristol, Bradford, Glasgow, Birmingham, Redruth and Tamworth.
In 2000, clothing and food brands for Big W were created with assistance from The Big Food Group and Peacocks, however only seven stores supplied both of the brands, and those stores would be the one that Asda and Tesco would eventually buy from Woolworths.
In 2000, Kingfisher Group PLC started to demerge their company after losses from the Comet and B&Q chains and the battle of the ownership of French DIY chain Castorama. In 2001, Kingfisher split their General Merchandise division, which included Woolworths, Big W, Music and Video Club and Superdrug into its own company, known as Woolworths Group PLC. Superdrug was later sold to Dutch company Kruidvat in the same year.
The Kingfisher demerger affected the Big W chain, because it meant the stores would now be just be simply oversized Woolworths stores and the chain was renamed to Woolworths Big W. Even with that flaw, Woolworths Group PLC still continued to open up stores monthly under the new name, with some existing stores having their logo on the top of the building changed to the modified version. In 2003, Woolworths started to open stores less often as the chain was losing money fast.
Following a period of losses, Woolworths confirmed in 2004 that it would abandon the Big W concept.  The group sold seven of the 21 Big W stores in 2005 to Tesco and Asda, which also included a store in Grimsby that never opened due to the Big W format already being scrapped. The gross internal floor area of the remaining sites was reduced to an optimum trading size of around 40,000 to 50,000 square feet (4,600 m2) and were rebranded as regular Woolworths stores, some sharing space with the clothing chain Peacocks or others shunk down in size entirely.
The Tamworth store closed in April 2008 so that M&S could expand (They already owned the other half of the former Big W) and the remaining 13 stores closed in 2008 and 2009 after Woolworths ceased trading.
Much like Woolco, Big W stores were found on retail parks or out-of-town areas around the UK and supplied goods from the four main Kingfisher brands. When the stores became Woolworths Big W, they supplied only Woolworths products. These remained mainly the same when the stores became regular Woolworths Stores. Peacocks (who supplied Big W's Clothing Brand) shared half of the out-of-town stores with Woolworths. Some stores later introduced Woolworths Clearance Outlets at the back of the stores.
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Stores converted to Woolworths
- Edinburgh, Opened 1999 and re-branded as Woolworths/Peacocks with a Burger King in 2005. After closure the building remained vacant and abandoned, and was the victim of heavy vandalism until reopening as The Range in 2013.
- Glasgow, Opened 2000 and re-branded as Woolworths/Peacocks in 2005, Reopened as a Tesco Extra in 2011.
- Filton, Opened 2000 and split up into Woolworths/Peacocks and TJ Hughes stores in 2005. Entire Building was demolished in 2013 after staying empty for many years (Including the TJ Hughes side which closed in 2011) and was replaced with a new-built Asda and a B&M Bargains.
- Bradford, Opened 2000 and re-branded as Woolworths/Peacocks in 2005. Reopened as The Range in 2010.
- Tamworth, Opened 2000 and split up into a Woolworths and M&S store in 2005. Closed in April 2008 with M&S taking over the other half to expand their store, which opened in December 2008.
- Heartcliffe, Opened in an unknown date and down-sized and re-branded as Woolworths/Peacocks and Tesco Home Plus in 2005. Reopened as a store called What in 2009 and then again as The Range in 2011. The Tesco Home Plus side closed in 2015 and is now a B&M Home Store.
- Loughbrough, Opened 2002 and re-branded as Woolworths in 2005. Reopened as a Tesco in 2010.
- Newport, Opened 2002 and split into Woolworths and TJ Hughes stores in 2005. Woolworths half reopened as The Range in 2011, The TJ Hughes has remained empty after its closure in 2011.
- Stockton, Opened 2000 and re-branded as Woolworths/Peacocks in 2005. Store is now split up into stores for The Range, B&M Homestore, Bargain Buys (now empty) and Smyths Toys.
- Beckton, Opened 2002 and Became Woolworths/Peacocks in 2005. The left side of the building was split up into units for Family Bargains (Later 99p Stores and Poundland, currently empty) and Home Bargains, with the remaining half of the store completely vacant with it's Woolworths signage completely intact. This was finally accompanied in 2016, when Selco Builders Warehouse took over the remaining part.
- Cheetham Hill, Opened 2005, later turned into a Woolworths almost immediately in the same year. The shop is now split up into 3 retail units, featuring stores of B&M Bargains, Dreams and Matalan.
- Catcliffe, Opened around 2000, Became Woolworths/Peacocks in 2005. A Specsavers opticians opened in 2008 and later relocated to a new-built unit after Woolworths closed. Building reopened as Boundary Mill Stores in 2012.
- Birmingham, Opened 2000 and rebranded as Woolworths in 2005. Now used as a retail park.
- Norwich, Opened 2002 and rebranded as Woolworths/Peacocks in 2005, alongside the store being split into other store units for other retailers. The former Woolworths half now trades as a Matalan.
Stores sold to Asda or Tesco in 2004
- Coatbridge, Opened 2002, closed 2005, Now Tesco Extra.
- Aberdeen, Opened 2003, Closed 2005, now Asda.
- Hull, Opened 2003, Closed 2005, Now Asda.
- Bolton, Opened 2001, Closed 2005, Now Asda.
- Redruth, Opened 2000, Closed 2005, Now Tesco Extra.
- Coventry, Opened 2000, Closed 2005, Now Tesco Extra.
- Grimsby, Was supposed to open in 2004, it never opened and now operates as a Tesco Extra.
A store in Byker was also planned, but instead opened as a 95,000 Square Foot Woolworths/Peacocks store in 2004. This store now operates as an Asda.
- "Out of town Big W superstores". Woolworths Museum. 2013. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
- Mesure, Susie (25 March 2004). "Woolworths scraps big W store format". The Independent. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
- Hall, James (9 January 2005). "Tesco and Asda go on buying spree at Big W". The Telegraph. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
- Official website (archived)