End of an era at Woolworths

PUBLISHED: 15:38 02 January 2009 | UPDATED: 13:48 06 May 2010

A WOOLWORTHS employee who has been working at the St Albans store for 40 years is saddened by the sudden end of her retail career. Lilian Ayton, aged 69, is one of almost 30,000 Woolworths staff nationwide who have lost their job following the high st

A WOOLWORTHS' employee who has been working at the St Albans store for 40 years is saddened by the sudden end of her retail career.

Lilian Ayton, aged 69, is one of almost 30,000 Woolworths' staff nationwide who have lost their job following the high street store's decline into administration in November.

Lilian and a very few co-workers, including Jan Lister who has been at the store for 15 years, will be there to shut the shop doors for the last time this weekend.

Lilian first joined the St Albans Woolworths team aged 29 and remembers how different the shop was then. She said: "We used to have a deli here selling things like cooked meats, eggs and cheese. I used to stand behind the counter - which eventually became the entertainment section - and weigh out potatoes. It was a bustling store back then."

But the state of the shop last week was a far cry from those days with last-minute bargain-hunters the store for anything from vats of pick 'n' mix to cheap-as-chips old DVDs. Even the trolleys and customer umbrella stand were up for sale and there were signs urging visitors to barter for fixtures that didn't have a price tag.

For Jan, who will now have to start looking for a new job, it was a horrible note on which to end. She said: "I wish we hadn't had to come back after Christmas. Nobody wants to work in this kind of environment where the shelves are literally being stripped from the store. It's an awful way to end a career at Woolworths."

Staff members also had to deal with youths who came into the store during its last few weeks just to mock the employees. But these were in the minority. Said Jan: "We've had some horrible people come in just to make fun but luckily we've had far more visits from kind-hearted and loyal customers who came to say goodbye. Many familiar faces have come in especially for Lilian, thanking her for being so helpful for such a long time."

The closing down of the St Albans store and the other 800-plus stores nationwide came as a shock to employees such as Lilian and Jan because they were not informed of the situation. Jan said she discovered she would be jobless from a newsreader on the TV.

Although she was upset at first, Lilian has come to terms with the store's closure and said that she had thoroughly enjoyed working at the St Albans branch.

She added: "I've put everything into my job and I've seen some weird and wonderful things - one man a few years ago spent £1,000 in one go on tins of Cadburys Roses!

"I'm going to put my feet up after this, although I'm pretty sure I won't be getting any redundancy pay because I have my pension. But I'm mainly worried for my younger co-workers who will be left jobless and desperate in the New Year.

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