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Dec 10, 2008

Woolworths UK Starts CLOSURE Sale at 815 Outlets

Bargain hunters are expected to flock to Woolworths branches later as a store closure sale starts at all its 815 outlets across the country.

In what looks like the beginning of the end for the retailer, its administrator Deloitte has said that some shops could close for good by the end of the year.

Deloitte is also due to consult with Woolworths' 30,000 staff over the possibility of redundancies.

Talks over the sale of the leaseholds of individual stores are continuing.

It is thought that Sainsbury's, Asda, Tesco, the Co-op and discount chain Poundland are still interested in picking up some of the retailer's prime sites.

'Failing brand'

Explaining the store closure sale, Deloitte said that as "Christmas is clearly the busiest time of the year for retailers and it is prudent to do all we can to sell existing stock".

Nick Hood from the business rescue experts Begbies Traynor said it was the beginning of the end for Woolworths.

"This has been a failing brand for a long time," he said.

"It just never kept pace with the change in the High Street, it's core DVD and CD business has been taken away by the online trade."

"It's been very, very difficult - it just hasn't been as fleet footed as many of its rivals".

Deloitte had held talks to sell the business as a going concern to potential buyers including former Woolworths chief executive Sir Geoff Mulcahy and Dragon's Den star Theo Paphitis, but no deals could be reached.

Debt mountain

Woolworths went into administration on 26 November with £385m of debt.

The firm's music, DVD and games distribution subsidiary, Entertainment UK, is also in administration.

Last week, rival retailer Zavvi, which is a customer of Entertainment UK, said the situation was causing shortages of certain products in its stores.

Media publishing business 2Entertain, in which Woolworths owns a 40% stake is not in administration. The other 60% of this business is owned by BBC Worldwide, the BBC's commercial division.

Woolworths had been due to celebrate its 100th anniversary next year. Its first UK store opened in Liverpool in 1909.

Source : BBC
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