Thou­sands of work­ers face dole

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Front Page -

WOOL­WORTHS, a re­tail bea­con for nearly a cen­tury, is on the brink of col­lapse as at­tempts to find a buyer for the chain ap­pear to have failed. Up to 30,000 em­ploy­ees, hun­dreds of them in Kent, are pre­par­ing to be­gin 2009 on the dole as ad­min­is­tra­tors at Deloitte an­nounced a clos­ing down sale at all 815 Wool­worths stores last Thurs­day. Wool­worths, a leg­endary shop­ping name since 1909 when it opened its first store in Liver­pool, op­er­ates at least 10 stores in Kent and Med­way, in­clud­ing Ash­ford and Ten­ter­den. The com­pany has been squeezed by the re­tail down­turn, and the bank­ing cri­sis – cou­pled with debts of £385m – has added to its trou­bles. For the past 99 years, Wool­worths has at­tracted mil­lions of shop­pers looking for items they could not find any­where else and at rea­son­able prices, but has strug­gled to find an iden­tity in re­cent times. Its range of pic’n’mix sweets, CDs, elec­tri­cals, DIY and kitchen­ware has lost cus­tomers to niche re­tail­ers pick­ing away at Wool­worths’ mar­ket share. But it still re­tains much af­fec­tion and in nor­mal times en­trepreneurs would prob­a­bly be pre­pared to take a punt on keep­ing the name alive. How­ever, the eco­nomic down­turn has stalled in­ter­est from would-be buy­ers, who have also been put off by the size of Woolies’ debt. Su­per­mar­kets and other stores are likely to be ex­cited at the chance of snap­ping up prime town cen­tre lo­ca­tions, and names like Tesco, Ice­land and Wilkin­son could soon re­place the dis­tinc­tive red fa­cia. Ad­min­is­tra­tors had hoped to keep the stores open un­til well into the New Year, but with stock re­duc­ing fast there will be lit­tle to sell and the shut­ters could come down in front of many shop win­dows by Christ­mas. Usdaw, the trade union rep­re­sent­ing shop work­ers, has ex­pressed shock at the lat­est de­vel­op­ments. How­ever, ad­min­is­tra­tors are still ac­tively seek­ing buy­ers for the Wool­worths as­sets, and ne­go­ti­a­tions with a num­ber of in­ter­ested par­ties are on­go­ing. Staff would be con­sulted and given sup­port in the event of re­dun­dan­cies.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.