Woolworths has best day of sales in its history

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The Independent Online

Woolworths made hundreds of support staff redundant yesterday, as the retail chain's massive stock clearance sale delivered the biggest single day of trade in its history.

Deloitte, the administrator of Woolworths, has axed 450 staff – out of a total workforce of 25,000 – at its London headquarters and office in Rochdale, although there have been no redundancies at its stores and distribution centre so far.

It is understood that some staff will receive redundancy cheques of just £385 for each year of service. Deloitte, which declined to comment on any financial payments, is said to be earning fees in excess of £20m.

Yesterday, shoppers flocked to the stores to snap up bargains of up to 50 per cent across its product range. Its 813 stores took £27m of sales, compared with £10.2m for the same day last year.

Woolworths' retail chain and its wholesale entertainment division, EUK, went into administration last week.

Neville Kahn, the joint administrator at Deloitte, said that he expects that stores will remain open beyond Christmas and that staff will be paid in full. He added: "We have today launched Woolworths' biggest ever sale, which is complementary to and will not adversely impact upon our efforts to sell the business."

But sources said the huge clearance sale and the fact that the 800-store chain's rent payment for the first quarter of 2009 is due on 25 December raised questions about whether some stores may close before Christmas – unless buyers emerge for the stores.

It is understood that Woolworths is still in talks with the BBC over its 40 per cent stake in 2 Entertain, the publishing joint venture with the broadcaster. On Thursday, Theo Paphitis, the star of the BBC's Dragon's Den series, walked away from the bidding process for the retail chain, sparking fears that the brand may disappear from the high street. CB Richard Ellis, which is running the auction for the stores, is understood to have received substantial interest for packages of stores from retailers including Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury's.