Woolworths will re-emerge under the ownership of the Barclay brothers but the variety store chain’s second life will be as a purely online business.

Shop Direct Group, owned by Sir David and Sir Frederick Barclay, bought the 99-year-old brand out of administration along with Ladybird, the children’s wear brand it owned.

Mark Newton-Jones, chief executive of Shop Direct, would say only that he had paid 'more than £1' for the two names. A person familiar with the process said Deloitte, Woolworths’ administrator, had wanted £12m for Ladybird alone. Home Retail Group last month paid £5m for Chad Valley, a toys brand owned by Woolworths.

'This is an iconic British retail brand that was going to die', said Mr Newton-Jones. 'As soon as we recognised that nobody was going to buy the stores we realised there was an opportunity to take the name.'

Financial Times, The Times, Daily Telegraph