December 27, 2008

Woolworths begins British store closings

More than 200 Woolworths stores across Britain closed Saturday, with the chain's remaining 600 British stores likely to be shuttered by Jan. 5, analysts said.

Woolworths branches in Liverpool, Prestwick, Llandudno, Gateshead's Metrocentre and Penzance were among the first to be closed, and barring any last-minute rescues, all 27,000 permanent and temporary British staffers will lose their jobs by next month, the BBC reported.

Staggered by a $563 million debt load, Woolworths' administrators Deloitte told the broadcaster there was some interest by potential buyers in some parts of the business, but added it had not come close to finding a buyer for the venerable discount retailing chain, which opened its first British store 99 years ago in Liverpool.

Shoppers were flocking to the stores Saturday, snapping up the last remaining bargains from store closing sales. Countdown displays showing how many days are left before stores close were placed in shop windows, the BBC said.