Saffron Walden says good-bye to Woolworths

PUBLISHED: 08:32 07 January 2009 | UPDATED: 21:38 31 May 2010

Mike Ashley is one of 12 staff to have been made redundant following the closure of Woolworths Saffron Walden store this week (Picture: Alistair Nelson)

Mike Ashley is one of 12 staff to have been made redundant following the closure of Woolworths Saffron Walden store this week (Picture: Alistair Nelson)

SAFFRON Walden High Street has lost one of its most familiar names after Woolworths ceased trading this week. The store - which employed 12 people, all of whom have been made redundant - closed its doors for the last time at 5.30pm yesterday (Tuesday), br

SAFFRON Walden High Street has lost one of its most familiar names after Woolworths ceased trading this week.

The store - which employed 12 people, all of whom have been made redundant - closed its doors for the last time at 5.30pm yesterday (Tuesday), bringing an end to a massive stock and fixtures and fittings clearance sale.

David Lemming, who has been manager of the Saffron Walden store for five years, said he was "saddened" by the closure and insisted it would leave a big hole in the town.

"Many of the things that we sell, such as the seasonal products and the 'pick n mix' sweets, you can't get anywhere else in the town," he said.

"It's especially disappointing because this was a profitable branch. Because of the banking crisis the whole chain has had to shut down."

Mr Lemming, who would have completed 40 years' employment with Woolworths in May, will sign off the building on Friday, but said he did not know how long it would stand vacant.

Co-ordinator of Saffron Walden Business Forum, Jeremy Rose, said the business community was very concerned about the impact the closure of the store will have on the town.

"I think there will be a knock-on effect and businesses that draw on the passing trade generated by people going to Woolworths will suffer," he said. "I fear that an empty store will make the town look dead."

"Woolworths is a brand name which brings people into the town - what we need is a flagship store, such as Marks & Spencer, which will attract more shoppers."

Saffron Walden MP Sir Alan Haselhurst said he felt great sympathy for the staff who had lost their jobs, but believes the town has the resilience to weather the financial storm.

"This is going to be a difficult year for retailers, but Saffron Walden has seen tough times before," he said. "In the early 1990s people were worried about shops being left empty, but things change and the town continues to thrive."

Chairman of the Saffron Walden Town Working Group, Cllr Alastair Walters, said: "Woolies is a household name which is remembered by the older generation and I'm very sorry it's closed.

"I hope the building doesn't stand empty for long - it's in a good location and I imagine it would be of interest to a multinational."

Woolworths is the most high-profile high street brand to suffer the effects of the credit crunch. In November 2008 the chain - which opened its first store in Liverpool 100 years ago - went into administration with debts of £385million.

The firm's administrator, Deloitte, then tried but failed to sell off the business.

As a result, the 807 Woolworths stores nationwide have been closing in recent weeks, with 27,000 people put out of work. The final 200 stores were expected to close on Monday but Deloitte gave the chain a brief reprieve to shift the remaining stock, as well as fixtures and fittings.

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