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Fashion chain set to take over Woolowrths

PUBLISHED: 16:09 30 December 2009 | UPDATED: 11:21 23 August 2010

FORMER Woolworths staff, who lost their jobs when the chain went bust a year ago, have welcomed news that a fashion retailer could take over the vacant building. Ethel Austin Ltd, with its partner Au Naturale, a homeware retailer, is thought to be settin

FORMER Woolworths staff, who lost their jobs when the chain went bust a year ago, have welcomed news that a fashion retailer could take over the vacant building.

Ethel Austin Ltd, with its partner Au Naturale, a homeware retailer, is thought to be setting up a new shop in the vacant Woolworths building in King Street, Gravesend.

The Gravesend branch of Woolworths closed in December last year after the high street giant was hit badly by the recession, resulting in the company going in to administration.

Gillian Richardson, from Gravesend, a former staff member at Woolworths for more than 20 years, said: "Its great news. All of the ex-staff are pleased.

"We still meet up and we all say how much we miss it, but to be honest, we all think it will just be good to see the store open again.

"It has looked so sad sitting there empty. I walked past it a few days ago and saw the lights on and someone sweeping up in there, so it looks like something might be happening

"Since it closed it has left a huge hole in the town, I realised this Christmas how important it is."

Woolworths had been in Gravesend since 1918, originally in High Street, which is the current site of Peacocks. A decade later they expanded and bought what was the Jubilee pub next door. In 1955 the store moved to its final location. It closed on December 27 last year following weeks of manic sales.

In January this year the Reporter published an exclusive picture of more than 30 staff in their last team photograph on Christmas Eve.

A spokesperson for Ethel Austin Ltd would not confirm whether the company were looking at the vacant Woolworths store but Mike Snelling, leader of Gravesham Borough Council, said a deal was close to being sealed.

He said: "We are still waiting for absolute confirmation of the deal but if it were to be confirmed it would be great news.

"The demise of Woolworths in January left a gaping hole in our town centre and the fact that this large group are looking to set up shop is tremendous.

"It shows that they have a great deal of faith in our retail sector."

Ethel Austin is currently recruiting staff for the store, with adverts posted on their website for an assistant manager's position, manager's position and for a supervisor.

The company stated that it would be able to confirm the location at the beginning of the New Year.

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