The retailer, which was due to celebrate its 100th year in operation in 2009, went into administration last month with debts of nearly £400 million (€420m). In truth, the company has been in trouble — with mounting debts, falling sales and losses — since the tail-end of 2006. Administrators recently warned that shops would close if no buyer for the company was found.
Theo Paphitis — a former owner of the Ryman’s chain of stationery shops, ex-director of Millwall Football Club and current panel member on the BBC entrepreneurial fundraising programme, Dragon’s Den — had been linked with a takeover consortium but pulled out of the running.
A further 600 Woolworths stores are due to close on January 5. In all, nearly 30,000 people — including more than 600 in Northern Ireland — are due to lose their jobs as a result of the closures.
Despite the high profile consumer rush on the sales this year, retailers are bracing themselves for a lean time ahead. The British economy — amid weakening consumer spending patterns — could shrink by as much as 2.9% next year.
A number of high profile retailers — including the entertainment chain, Zavvi (formerly Virgin Megastore) — are calling in the administrators. Bigger names such as Next and Marks and Spencer have been busy slashing prices by as much as 50% on their goods, in an attempt to attract more shoppers.
The likes of Debenhams and Tesco have gone further by cutting some prices by as much as 70%.
However, supermarket chain Waitrose had its busiest ever run-up to Christmas, as it saw a year-on-year sales rise of 3.5% in the seven days up to Christmas Day. Post Christmas sales on December 27 were up by 37% year-on-year.