Essential reading for retailers and suppliers in the home improvement market

Alworths future uncertain

Published: 4 March 2011
Founder Andy Latham steps down from the board, as retailer confirms a restructuring of the business is under way.
Alworths future uncertain
Mr Latham, who founded Alworths in 2009, resigned as a director of the board on March 1 and the company's registered address has been changed that of a solicitors in Redhill, where the firm's head office is based.

Speculation is rife that a pre-pack administration is on the horizon, with Companies House records revealing that Mr Latham was appointed director of a newly-incorporated company, Retail Acquisitions, days before he stepped down from the Alworths board. The new firm is currently registered to the same solicitor's address in Redhill.

Mr Latham is joined on the Retail Acquisitions board by Christopher Althorp-Gormlay, boss of PE firm SKG Capital. The self-professed 'investment bank boutique' states on its website that it "provides turnaround and investment capital to company shareholders looking for fast and effective decisions regarding their business or assets that may be in financial distress".

DIY Week contacted Alworths this morning but the retailer is yet to comment on recent events.

Mr Latham, who worked for Woolworths for 28 years, before the retail chain's collapse in 2008, spoke to DIY Week in September about Alworth's ambitious expansion plans. "12 months ago, when we launched the idea, we said we wanted four stores by Christmas and then 20 this year. We're already on track for that with 15 this year so far and 16 after next week. We're looking to get up to that magic figure of 20 by Christmas but we're still looking for profitable stores - we're not just looking to open any old thing just to meet targets."

The retailer currently operates 17 stores across the UK, stocking a similar offer to Woolworths, including homewares, hardware, seasonal ranges and the popular pick'n'mix. Around 60% of the firm's suppliers are ex-Woolworths, according to Mr Latham.

Despite the demise of the Woolworths chain, Mr Latham was confident there was still demand for a Woolies-style offer. In the same interview in September, he said: "I firmly believe there is still a market for local high street shopping...There is a need for a variety retailer in the middle ground. Not value but a middle ground retailer on the high street. People are crying out for it."

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As Bunnings opens its largest Warehouse store to date (110,000sq ft) this week but also trials small format like a number of retailers, we ask: is there still a place for 'big box' retail stores in the UK?


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