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October 27, 2020updated 30 Sep 2022 9:43am

News websites duped by tweet claiming Woolworths is returning to high streets

By Charlotte Tobitt

A number of UK national news websites have performed a swift ‘reverse ferret’ after reporting an unverified Twitter account’s hoax claim that beloved shop Woolworths was plotting a high street return.

The Twitter account, with the handle @WoolworthsUK, posted for the first time in the early hours of this morning and at 9am announced: “Here to save 2020! Woolworths is coming back to your high street, as a physical store!

“A couple of legal things to get sorted, but we’re full steam ahead at Woolworths HQ.” One of its tweets wrongly spelled the shop’s name as Woolsworths.

The story was quickly picked up across the web but Very Group, which owns the Woolworths brand name in the UK, soon began to tell journalists it was not true.

Google News screenshots show the Metro, Daily Star, Mirror and Sun websites appearing to initially report as fact in their headlines and intros that Woolworths is planning to return.

Others such as Mail Online reported that “rumours are swirling” that the beloved store could be making a comeback before updating their stories confirming it was a hoax.

Local news websites took the opportunity to make the news relevant to their readers, with headlines like “Is Woolworths returning? How it was in Newport” on the South Wales Argus.

A Liverpool Echo story headlined “Woolworths confirms its stores are coming back to UK high streets” has been deleted, as has one by Heart Radio stating “Woolworths to return to the UK high street” and another by Ladbible’s Tyla.

Heart has now published a separate story with the headline: “Is Woolworths coming back to the UK?”

Many of the outlets chose instead to edit their original stories to put a question mark over the claims and reveal they appeared to be a hoax.

The Herald Scotland updated its headline “Woolworths announces return to the UK high street next year” to “Woolworths hoax Twitter account announces return to the UK high street next year”.

Other titles have not yet updated their stories: The Westmorland Gazette continues to report the store’s return as fact with no caveats.

A spokesperson for The Very Group told Press Gazette: “We own the Woolworths trademark in the UK. The Twitter account UKWoolworths is not connected to The Very Group.”

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