Countdown's major name U-turn dubbed 'a risky move' by expert

Countdown's major U-turn in dumping its name and rebranding to a rather familiar one, Woolworths, has been dubbed a "really unusual move" by a marketing expert. 

Yes, it's a back-to-the-future moment for Kiwi shoppers but the makeover isn't cheap - it'll cost the company $400 million.

The supermarket chain has lined Aotearoa's street fronts for decades under a few different names. 

In 2009 Woolworths and Foodtown stores became Countdown. But now it's the final countdown as the supermarket goes back to its Aussie roots and the parent-company name Woolworths.

"The connection back to the group is really important for us to be able to bring the best of Woollies to Kiwi customers, also it denotes the importance of New Zealand to our overall group," said Woolworths New Zealand managing director Spencer Sonn.

Marketing expert Bodo Lang told Newshub the rebrand is "a really unusual move". 

"A retro move to go back to the old brand - and also a risky move because it's an Australian brand and consumers may be fearing the cost of groceries will go up as a result of the re-branding."

Lang told Newshub Woolworths needs to manage its branding change carefully.

"Customers may interpret this as spending on something that they can't see the value. Businesses typically pass on the costs of rebranding, so therefore they might say there is an even greater cost of food coming at us."

However, Woolworths is promising the re-brand won't increase food prices at the till.

"We absolutely appreciate that it's not an easy time for many New Zealanders and our priority continues to be keeping food as affordable as possible, today's news doesn't change that," said a Woolworths spokesperson. 

But will it get more customers to the till? Newshub asked people on Wellington's Cuba Street, where Woolworths opened its very first store in 1929, what they thought of the re-brand.

"It's nostalgic, I like it," said one Wellingtonian.

There are now 194 Countdown stores across the country, and changing all the signage back to Woolworths is expected to take a couple of years. It will start in a matter of months as part of a $400 million project that will also upgrade its older stores.

"We plan to go as quickly as we can," said Sonn. 

As it's out with the new and in with the old.