Woolworths staff await their fate

STAFF at Woolworths stores across Suffolk were today anxiously waiting to hear about the future of their jobs.Workers at the company's outlets in Ipswich, Felixstowe, Woodbridge and Stowmarket turned up for business as usual while the lawyers and administrators started a search for a buyer for the ailing retailer.

STAFF at Woolworths stores across Suffolk were today anxiously waiting to hear about the future of their jobs.

Workers at the company's outlets in Ipswich, Felixstowe, Woodbridge and Stowmarket turned up for business as usual while the lawyers and administrators started a search for a buyer for the ailing retailer.

Early morning customers expressed a mixture of shock and surprise that the stores could disappear from the high street.

Administrators Deloitte said it was looking for a “suitable buyer for all parts of the business” and had received interest from “a number of parties” for both the retail arm and the firm's E.UK wholesaling operation in the past 24 hours.

Nationally the company's 813 stores employ 30,000 staff.

Deloitte's reorganisation services partner Dan Butters said: “We are working hard to ensure that any sale of the business, in whole or part, will preserve jobs.”

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Reorganisation services partner Neville Kahn said: “Stores will remain open past Christmas and employees in stores will be paid.

“Woolworths has suffered a number of cash flow problems. Strenuous efforts over recent weeks to keep these companies going have unfortunately failed.”

Hilco, the restructuring specialist which failed in its bid to buy Woolworths' stores for £1 and assume a major share of its £385 million debts, has been appointed by Deloitte as an agent to help manage the retail arm.

Woolworth, which opened its first store in Liverpool in 1909, has seen sales plummet as customers turned to supermarkets or the internet to gain better value.

John Gorle, national officer of the shopworkers' union Usdaw, said the administration was “devastating” for employees.

“We will be seeking urgent talks with the administrators to ensure that our members' future is at the top of their agenda and to understand the proposals for the businesses in the short to medium term,” he said.

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