The shutters will come down on all Woolworths’ 807 stores by January 5 after Deloitte, administrator to the collapsed variety retailer, failed to find a buyer.

Up to 27,000 jobs – which were already under threat – now appear likely to be lost.

Deloitte said it was trying to help employees to get jobs in those stores that are to be reopened by other stores. Leases on about 300 stores will be sold to other retailers, Deloitte said yesterday, but the administrator has been unable to sell the business as a going concern.

Iceland, the supermarket chain, is leading a pack of buyers, which includes a host of grocers and discount stores, for the Woolworths sites. However, trade unions pointed out the need to refit stores meant they could still be closed for some time.

Financial Times, The Times, The Independent