Lancashire’s branches of Woolworths were beseiged by shoppers today as the troubled retailer launched a ‘closing down’ sale.
There were huge queues at Woolworths in Accrington, Blackburn, Blackpool, Burnley, Chorley, Cleveleys, Clitheroe, Lancaster, Morecambe, Nelson, Preston, Rawtenstall and St Annes as Christmas shoppers looked to grab a bargain.
Administrators, who have warned that some stores may close before the end of the month, launched the sale after struggling to find a buyer for the chain.
Customers said that they would be sorry to see the historic store close for good but were keen to take advantage of the up to 50 per cent off sale.
Kerry Barber, 29, from Mill Hill in Blackburn, said: “I always shop in Woolworths, it has some good bargains.
"I am certainly taking advantage of the sale in the run up to Christmas to buy loads of presents for my one year old daughter Ella May.
”It would be a shame if workers lost their jobs and Woolies will certainly be missed.”
Cath McGough, who was shopping at the Burnley store, said: "It's a shame it's closing down really.
"I've been buying things for the kids there since I was 18.
"Lot's of folk come into town and head straight for Woolworths because it sells a bit of everything, but where are they going to go now?"
Helen McKenna added: "I really like Woolworths and I think it is a real shame that it's closing. It's a big shop in the high street.
"I've managed to get some bits and pieces today, but a lot of the shelves are bare now."
Staff at Woolworths in Blackburn said that they did not know whether or not their store would definitely close.
The worker, who asked not to be named, said: “We haven’t yet received official confirmation whether the Blackburn store is closing, or if we’ll lose our jobs. We have only seen what’s been on the news but nothing else.”
Administrators Deloitte said they had failed to find a buyer who can ‘revive’ Woolworths but staff would receive support if they lost their jobs.
Neville Kahn, re-organisation services partner at Deloitte, said: “Christmas is clearly the busiest time of the year for retailers and it is prudent to do all we can to sell existing stock.
“By moving to a store closing sale and further discounting the stock, we are maximising the sales potential that this period offers.”
“If no offers for the Woolworths business are forthcoming, then it is possible that some stores may close before the end of December.
“The administrators will begin a consultation process with all employees to provide an update on the latest developments and discuss the support available in the event of redundancies.”
There are growing fears for workers in the stores but talks on the future of the stores are continuing.
Last week, 450 people were made redundant out of the 30,000 staff, as Deloitte looked for buyers, and Dragon’s Den entrepreneur Theo Paphitis, whose talks to buy the firm fell through, said it was likely it would be broken up.
A spokesman for Usdaw, the shopworkers’ union, said: “We remain hopeful that a buyer will be found for this much loved high street store.
"However, in the meantime we are seeking to do everything possible on behalf of our members.”
Councillors in Lancashire said closures would be “tragic” for town centres.
Burnley Council leader Gordon Birtwistle said: “It would be absolutely tragic if Woolworths closed in Burnley.
"I don’t know exactly how many work there, but there must be a couple of hundred casual and part time.
"I fear that Woolworths will not be the last big high-street name to go under.”
Ribble Valley council leader Michael Ranson added: "This won't be good at all, it's very disappointing.
"There might be someone who comes in and buys the site and develops into something else, but it's very distressing.
"What we need in Clitheroe especially are more national names, not less."
Rossendale Council leader Tony Swain said: “It will be a massive loss if Woolworths closes in Rawtenstall.
"Hopefully a resolution can be found soon which keeps as many stores open as possible.”