January 05, 2009

Lessons from the demise of Woolworths

For many years Woolworths was one of the biggest advertisers, a household name and a brand that survived through two world wars and into its 97th year. Then it just disappeared.

It is too easy to blame Woolworth's demise on the credit crunch, or the global downturn. Yes, the dizzying rate of growth in retail spending has been quickly transformed into a significant fall off, but the roots of Woolworth's failure run much deeper than the present economic woes.

Woolworths as a brand did not stand for anything anymore. It had lost its way. Just ask any 5 consumers what was great, special, or even different about Woolworths and I bet they will universally struggle to give you an answer. The product mix, the marketing message and the market segmentation were off.

Over the years Woolworth's distinctive appeal had been eroded and its customers were tempted to a wide array of new comers offering the customers something more and something different. The new comers segmented the high street, as well as the retail park.

What is the lesson for us all? Well, there are many, but the first is stand for something - something different - something distinctive - something special. Decide on your segment and be the leader in that space and beware of trying to be everything to everyone. Finally, the most obvious one of all don't get left behind in a fast changing market.

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