Last Woolworths stores to close

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The Independent Online

The last remaining Woolworths stores will close their doors for the final time at the end of trading today.

The closures bring to an end a massive clearance sale which even saw the stores' fixtures and fittings sold off at bargain prices.

The collapse leaves 27,000 workers out of work.

The firm's 807 stores have been closing in tranches throughout the final weeks of December after selling off stock, fixtures and fittings at discount prices.

The final 200 were expected to close yesterday but administrator Deloitte gave the chain a brief reprieve to shift the remaining stock and allow final arrangements to be made.

Deloitte would not confirm how much money has been raised by the stock sale but many stores have been emptied by bargain hunters.

It has held talks with other retailers to take on the leases of around 300 Woolworths stores and hopes to sell off the Ladybird children's clothes and Chad Valley toys brands.

Dragons' Den entrepreneur Theo Paphitis showed an interest in buying parts of the collapsed chain.

But after days of negotiation at the start of last month, Mr Paphitis, who made his fortune by turning around companies including stationery business Ryman and the Contessa and La Senza lingerie chains, said it had not been possible to reach a deal with administrators from Deloitte.

Mr Paphitis said: "My vision was that we could retain the Woolworths brand name through purchasing a large share of the existing retail business. This would have involved providing a secure future for as many employees as possible."

Yesterday shoppers at the Brixton store, in south London, were flocking to snap up last-minute bargains.

Lucy Ferguson, 33, who works in media sales, said: "It is just really sad, isn't it? They are just down to the odds and ends.

"It is a really big shop on Brixton High Street and you just wonder what will happen to it and how it will change the character of the road. I imagine it will remain empty for some time.

"The problem was, you never really knew what Woolworths sold."

But Katheleen Nullin, 62 and retired, said she would be lost without the shop.

"I'm really disappointed that it is closing down because I've been coming for years, as has my family.

"I've got tears in my eyes thinking about it closing, I wish someone could have saved it. I think it is a brilliant shop, the best on the high street.

Businessman John Kerr, 51, had picked up a few bargain calendars. He said: "I'm not surprised. I blame the money speculators who took it over in 2000. They just ran the business down and then leased it back. It had no hope, really.

"It's a family thing - yes, you can buy the same things in other stores but there isn't anywhere where you can buy anything from videos to toys to sweets all under one roof. It covers all generations."

Housewife Ruby Fatmi, 31, said: "It is a shame, they've got cheap but good stuff. Even before the sale it was always very cheap. I come here all the time for things for the family."