Updated: Woolworths has launched a closing down Sale and could close some stores before the end of December if administrators Deloitte fail to find a buyer.

Deloitte said it was still actively seeking a buyer to acquire Woolworths as a going concern and was in negotiations with a number of interested parties.

However, industry sources say chances of a deal are receding by the day.

The administrators said that some Woolworths stores could close before the end of December if no offers are forthcoming.

The failure to find a buyer puts the pick and mix retailer’s entire staff – totalling some 30,000 – facing redundancy.

Deloitte reorganisation services partner Neville Kahn said: "While we are still seeking bids from interested parties, Christmas is clearly the busiest time of the year for retailers and it is prudent to do all we can to sell existing stock.

"By moving to a store closing Sale and further discounting the stock, we are maximising the sales potential that this period offers.”

The closure Sale comes despite last-minute efforts by Sir Geoff Mulcahy to save the retailer he once ran.

David Buchler, former chairman of Kroll Europe, and property tycoon Ardeshir Naghshineh, the largest shareholder in the company, were also interested in saving the Woolworths brand.

A sale of Woolworths’ wholesale arm EUK is also looking unlikely and it could be liquidated within days.

The Woolworths stores are likely to be packaged and sold off to retailers including Iceland, Poundland, Tesco and Sainsbury’s.

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