Woolworths stores start shutdown

A quarter of Woolworths stores will close tomorrow as the end looms nearer for the failed British retailer.

A quarter of Woolworths stores will close tomorrow as the end looms nearer for the failed British

retailer.

Administrators Deloitte have earmarked for closure around 200 of the chain’s 800-plus stores for closure at sites including Doncaster, Nottingham and Sheffield.

The stores will shut their doors for the final time tomorrow night in the first wave of closures which will see Woolworths cease trading on January 5 unless an unlikely last-minute buyer is found.

This is set to spell a miserable new year for 27,000 staff at the retail chain who face losing their jobs.

Woolworths has been a fixture on the high street for almost a century, but the company has been the highest profile casualty of the carnage among retailers as the UK slides into recession.

Other victims have included furniture retailer MFI and music and games chain Zavvi, which collapsed into administration on Christmas Eve.

Fellow strugglers Whittard of Chelsea and the Officers Club also called in administrators but were immediately sold in rescue deals.

Woolworths’ retail operation was already in trouble before the credit crunch tipped it into the abyss as lenders pulled the plug on the ailing business.

Deloitte has held talks with other retailers to take on the leases of around 300 stores, as well as the Woolworths trademark – meaning the famous name may make a return to the high street at some point.

There were also reports this week that 125 of the more successful stores could be saved under the Woolworths brand name, although Deloitte was unavailable for comment.

Woolworths opened its first UK store in Liverpool in 1909 but went into administration last month as debts and losses mounted.

Restructuring specialist Hilco had earlier failed in its attempt to buy the company’s stores for £1 (€1.04) and assume a major share of its £385m (€402m) borrowing facility.

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