ACCRINGTON’S Woolworths store closed its doors for the last time on Tuesday when the chain ceased to trade.
The shop, which was one of the last 200 to close across the country, had been at the heart of the community for 83 years.
Manager Neil Farr said: "We closed at about 4.50pm on Tuesday when we sold the last few items of stock. Pretty much everything went."
He said the store, which employed 21 staff, had been one of the better performing stores across the country, regularly reaching sales targets.
"Before the announcement I had told the staff that there would be closures but that we were pretty safe unless the whole company went under – which sure enough it did. That made me feel pretty rotten.
"When we were told we were closing there were quite a few tears. A lot of people describe their colleagues as an extended family. I will miss quite a few of the people here."
He said many of the staff had managed to secure new jobs and a special session was held at the Job Centre on Wednesday for those that hadn’t. The longest serving was Carol Houghton, who had worked on the tills for 13 years.
Neil added: "People have rallied round. We have had a home-baked cake brought in, Greggs have given us cakes and Marks and Spencers brought us a case of Bucks Fizz. They have all done their bit to support us."
However, not everyone has been so supportive.
"Some customers have been quite abusive and have behaved disgustingly. My staff have behaved impeccably against this confrontation.
"As soon as we put up the 50 per cent signs there were people wrestling, pushing, shoving and arguing over stock. Towards the end, there wasn’t much to argue about.
"Once we were told we were closing we were just on countdown but we kept our heads held high and went out with a bang.
"It’s very eerie going into the stockroom with the echo."
Woolworths is just one of a number of high street branches to fall into financial difficulties during the credit crunch, alongside Adams, MK One and the Card Warehouse – which is due to close today (Friday) after the chain went into administration.
Meanwhile, other stores are trying to boost sales by offering up to 75 per cent discount.
Zain Kiyani, who took over as Arndale Centre manager in October, said: "The closure of Woolworths is a sad time for all of us. It was a very good store throughout the country but times are hard."
He said the Arndale team was always on the lookout for new shops to move to the mall – but said everyone was feeling the pinch.
"We will do all we can to encourage people to come into Accrington and to find new owners to replace the empty ones. The last thing we want to see is a lot of boarded up shops."
l Jobs at Marks and Spencer stores across the country now hang in the balance as the company announced dismal Christmas trading figures.
An USDAW union spokeswoman said: "At this stage they have only announced that 27 stores including 25 Simply Food stores and two ‘normal’ Marks and Spencer stores are closing. Accrington is not mentioned."
Around 1,000 jobs are expected to be lost, including positions at the business’s headquarters.
However, it is not known whether further redundancies will follow.