Page last updated at 16:24 GMT, Wednesday, 11 February 2009

'Soul-destroying' life after Woolworths

By Steven Duke
Business reporter, BBC News, Corby

Outside of former Woolworths store in Corby
Woolworths' Corby branch closed last month after the chain was liquidated

"There's only so many times you can rearrange the cupboard," remarks Evelyn Downey, former sales assistant at her local Woolworths, now a full-time job seeker.

In the Northamptonshire town of Corby, it's not hard to find the faces behind the rising unemployment statistics. Woolworths is by no means the only store in town to lay off workers and shut up shop.

"I worked on the entertainment desk," she says over a cup of tea in a local café.

"I miss rearranging the charts every week, I miss seeing what new CDs have come out. How stupid is that?"

Evelyn lost her job on 7 January, the day after Corby's Woolworths closed its doors for the last time. All 27 staff were made redundant, including the store manager, Steve Tait.

"I'm cutting back on my lifestyle and expenditure," he states philosophically.

Daunting task

Of the 26 staff he employed, how many have found work?

Everlyn Downey
I miss catching up with colleagues. We were a team
Evelyn Downey, former Woolworths employee

"I know of six who've managed to get jobs. Some companies have been quite receptive to us as former Woolworths employees," Steve says, before adding, "I'm sure I'll get something, but I might have to settle for something less favourable than I had."

Another of his staff, Frances Little, is also still seeking work.

After spending most of her working life at Woolworths in Corby, getting back into the jobs market is proving daunting.

"I haven't had a proper job interview since I was 16 - I'm now 55," she says with a touch of dread in her voice. "I've never been out of work before, never signed on. It's soul-destroying."

Frances is taking a computer course and looking to do some voluntary work. "At my age, I need to get a job. I've got to be doing something. I can't just sit at home."

It's the boredom of being jobless that Evelyn is also struggling to come to terms with. "I miss catching up with colleagues. We were a team," she says wistfully.

At one time, three generations of her family worked at the Corby Woolworths store. That tradition has come to a dramatic halt. "Walking past the place now, it's so sad to see it empty."

And how does she respond to the prime minister's reassurances that jobs are being created? "I'd like him to come to Corby and show me where they are, because I can't find any."

The day after she was made redundant, Evelyn sent her CV to 27 retailers in the town. One replied. "No thanks," was its message. Just one more gloomy statistic.

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