A TEENAGER from York is believed to be the person behind a hoax that led to news outlets running stories wrongly claiming Woolworths was returning to the high street.

A national newspaper has claimed that a 17-year-old sixth-form student from York was behind the stunt that saw dozens of mainstream British websites run articles on Tuesday asserting that Woolworths was reopening based on a Twitter account called Woolworths UK.

Its tweet said: "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."

The story was debunked later the same day as 'fake news'.

In York Woolworths closed its branch in Spurriergate after trading in the city for more than 80 years back in 2008.

The sixth-former told the Guardian they had been practising skills learned while taking a course in digital marketing as part of their business A-level: “The experiment wasn’t meant to get that big … but thanks to the media and over 5,000 followers, the story got big and it spread further.”

They said that rather than being a textbook case of disinformation spread via social media, it was largely amplified by mainstream news outlets. “Fake news is so easy to spread, and it took Twitter over 12 hours to shut down the account. 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 individual, who was only five years old when Woolworths went bankrupt, has never been in one of their stores. Instead they chose the brand for an experiment testing the brand loyalty of the British public because of its nostalgic appeal and to capitalise on a pre-existing Twitter trend.