A 17-year-old student who managed to convince major news outlets that Woolworths was returning to the UK has said they carried out the prank to practise skills learned in a digital marketing course.
A tweet from an account called Woolworths UK falsely claimed that some shops would open their doors on a trial basis in 2021. But Woolworths closed its physical stores in the UK in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
The story was widely reported, with several national news outlets, including websites owned by Daily Mirror publisher and Reach, repeating the claim.
The 17-year-old sixth-former from York has since come forward as the person behind the Twitter account.
The student told the Guardian that the fake announcement was an "experiment" to practise skills learned while taking a course in digital marketing as part of their business A-Level.
And the fact the Twitter account seems incapable of spelling Woolworths properly ought to ring alarm bells - Woolsworths?
— David Banks (@DBanksy)
"Thanks to the media and over 5,000 followers, the story got big and it spread further," they said.
Many social media users noted that the tweets from the account were full of spelling mistakes.
The Very Group, who own the company trademark in the UK, said they had no knowledge of the reopening and that the account was not linked to them.
“Fake news is so easy to spread, and it took Twitter over 12 hours to shut down the account," said the student.
"There was spelling mistakes and a lack of a website purposely injected into the account, and yet some of the media still took it as gospel. I feel bad for the reporters.”
The sixth-former told the Guardian thye wanted to remain anonymous because they did not want to "receive hate" from disappointed Woolworths fans who expressed excitement at the return of the shop's pick 'n' mix selections.
They added that they had never been inside one of the stores when it was open. They chose Woolworths because of its "nostalgic appeal".