Page last updated at 13:52 GMT, Friday, 5 December 2008

Woolworths cuts 450 support jobs

Woolworths branch
Woolworths is hoping to attract extra customers with its sale

The administrators of Woolworths have cut 450 jobs in support operations at Marylebone Road in London and Castleton in Rochdale.

Woolworths employs more than 25,000 people but no jobs have yet gone in any of its shops or distribution centres.

The firm, which collapsed last month, has also launched what administrators called its "biggest ever sale".

One retail analyst said it "looked like a closing down sale" but administrators said it was "ongoing".

'Unsold stock'

Discounts of up to 50% have been offered on toys and greeting cards, with prices for entertainment goods also being reduced across all ranges.

Administrators said they expected the stores to remain open after Christmas and that the sale would continue.

"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," said Neville Kahn, joint administrator at Deloitte.

Extra staff had been hired to cope with demand, he added.

But Nick Bubb, an analyst with stockbrokers Pali International, said the company was "trying to get rid of unsold stock and to empty shops".

"It looks like a closing down sale," he added.

Woolworths went into administration on 26 November and Deloitte is in talks with a number of companies said to be interested in Woolworths' assets.

On Thursday, Dragons' Den entrepreneur Theo Paphitis pulled out of the race to buy parts of Woolworths.

It is thought that Sainsbury's, Asda, Tesco, the Co-op and discount chain Poundland are still interested in picking up some of the retailer's prime stores.

Christmas blitz

Other retailing groups have also started sales early this year, in an effort to bring hard hit customers back into the shops before Christmas.

Debenhams and fashion group Dorothy Perkins have held three-day 20%-off sale events, ending on Friday.

Similar discounts have been offered twice by Marks and Spencer in the past month. M&S said it wanted to give shoppers "a helping hand in the run-up to Christmas".

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