Alworths - brave new world of retailing or is it revamped Woolies?(November 22, 2009)
IT isn't often that Warminster leads the way when it comes to shopping but the town's new Alworths store is the first of its kind to open anywhere in England outside the south east where there are already three in operation.
The stores are mostly being opened in former Woolworths sites and will inevitably draw comparison with the old Woolies - though they are different entities, albeit with a few management links.
But after the dust settled and things began to operate normally VFW's Steve Dancey, who likes to think he is a canny shopper, took a nose inside the latest Warminster shop (pictured left).
''The first thing you notice is that the new checkout is in a different place and looks more businesslike than the old Woolies - more like you would find at an M&S,'' he said.
''Then you see the pick'n'mix where there are at least 50 different types of sweets including such old favourite such as pineapple cubes and coconut mushrooms all for 75p a 100 grams - which is slightly less than a quarter of a pound in English.
''After that there is a significant similarity with the old Woolies with the type of toys and at the back there is, of course, a passport photo booth.
''Unlike Woolies though there is little choice in DVD and CDs - the company no doubt thinking this is a declining market as interest in chart pop music has waned so greatly and those who are still keen use downloads. '
'There's a fair bit of household items and so now I'll be able to replenish my stocks of cotton reels.
''One thing missing, which always drew me into the old store was the shoe repair kits, that used to cost about 2.99 where you could stick a new sole on a decent shoe to extend its life. Perhaps they'll come up with some.
''I didn't like to see all the Christmas tat in the old record shop area but I suppose as they build up they need quick turnover and this is one way of getting it.
''The most unusual things were the little Disney outfits which for 20 pounds will transform your little girl into Snow White or a character from Pirates of the Caribbean.
''As in most shops some things seemed better value for money than others - though I can't think of anywhere else where you can find a chilled can of Coke in the town centre for 45p, so it'll be worth popping in if we get some decent weather this summer.''
VERDICT - A promising start but they'll need to take care not to gain a reputation for tat - others do tat far more cheaply.
* On Friday, at the opening, a large crowd gathered and the first 200 customers were given a free tub of pick and mix. The new Warminster manager is Adam Hibberd, who was manager of Woolworths at Taunton and a previous manager at Warminster. “It’s great to be bringing a new variety store to this end of town,” he said. Half a dozen of the original Woolworths' team have become part of the Warminster Alworths.