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After 99 years, Woolworths goes bust

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Scott Jagow: More dire economic news from overseas. In Britain, more than 30,000 jobs are in jeopardy after a major retailing firm collapsed. That would be Woolworths — the low-cost chain has gone bust after 99 years. From London, Stephen Beard reports.


Stephen Beard: Woolworths, an off-shoot of the American five and dime stores, has over 800 shops in Britain. They all face closure. The company went bankrupt last night after its bankers pulled the plug.

The timing is unprecedented, with almost a month to go before Christmas. British consumers are famous for their prodigious levels of shopping throughout the festive season.

To pull the plug now shows how desperate for cash the banks have become, says analyst Robert Clark.

Robert Clark: The irony of it is with Woolworth that it actually makes money at Christmas — it’s the only time that it does make money. So it would probably have been profitable trading fully through Christmas.

He says the danger is there could now be a fire sale of Woolworth stock, and that could trigger a pre-Christmas price war sapping the profits of other stores. Many more could go bust in January.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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