Woolworths to hold 'biggest ever' sale

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Woolworths will hold its "biggest ever" sale today as administrators remain in talks with potential buyers of the troubled retailer.

Deloitte, the administrator of Woolworths, said it would slash up to 50 per cent off goods.

The massive discounting drive comes the day after an unsuccessful bid by Dragons' Den entrepreneur Theo Paphitis for Woolworths.

His proposal would have seen the retention of the Woolworths name and acquisition of a large slice of the retail business.

Mr Paphitis said he could not reach a deal with Deloitte, adding that it was likely a break-up of the business would raise more cash for creditors.

Deloitte said yesterday talks were continuing with a number of parties interested in buying Woolworths as a going concern.

Neville Kahn, Deloitte's reorganisation services partner, said: "We will launch Woolworths' Biggest Ever Sale with discounts of up to 50 per cent on all goods, except concessions.

"We anticipate increased footfall in the stores and have hired additional staff to cope with increased demand. Additional goods have been moved to all stores and further stock will be added in the coming days.

"There is continuing interest in the core Woolworths business and the sale will continue whilst potential buyers finalise their plans for the purchase of the business."

Highlights of the sale will include up to 50 per cent off toys, 30 per cent off Christmas trees and decorations, 50 per cent off all greeting cards, 20 per cent off personal gifts and reductions on all entertainment products.

Woolworths' 813 stores will stay open during the festive season but doubts remain over the future of thousands of jobs - the group employs 30,000 staff, with around 25,000 working in retail.

Mr Paphitis, who made his fortune by turning around companies including stationery business Ryman, had hoped to retain the Woolworths brand name by purchasing a large share of the existing retail business.

He said: "Unfortunately, the constituent parts of Woolworths are more valuable than the whole. The administrators have a difficult job to do and I appreciate that they need to get the highest cash value for the business.

"The prime location and size of many of the Woolworths stores makes them an attractive proposition for many larger format retailers such as supermarket chains, so they are very precious sites.

"I am very disappointed that my own proposals have come to nothing but at least I know I've certainly tried. I hope that an alternative proposal succeeds in securing the future for the many Woolworths employees involved."

Meanwhile, Deloitte said it was working to safeguard supplies at EUK, which went into administration alongside the retail chain.

Earlier this week, high street retailer Zavvi told online customers that the situation at EUK made it difficult to secure the availability of products.

Deloitte said "constructive talks" were taking place with both suppliers and customers of EUK to ensure arrangements to resume business.

The administrator was appointed last week after Hilco, the restructuring specialist, failed in its bid to buy the company's stores for £1 and assume a major share of its £385 million borrowing facility.

Woolworths' publishing business 2Entertain, a joint venture with the BBC's commercial arm BBC Worldwide, is not in administration.