WOOLWORTHS 1918-2008

PUBLISHED: 12:08 08 January 2009 | UPDATED: 10:22 23 August 2010

TOUGH TIMES: Frances Laurie.

TOUGH TIMES: Frances Laurie.

TEN former employees met on Tuesday lunchtime to share memories and discuss their futures. The friends invited reporter Jason Goodyer to meet with them at The Harvester, Rochester Road, Gravesend as they reflected on the devastating closure. Some have fe

REDUNDANT: Mandy Beales.

TEN former employees met on Tuesday lunchtime to share memories and discuss their futures.

The friends invited reporter Jason Goodyer to meet with them at The Harvester, Rochester Road, Gravesend as they reflected on the devastating closure. Some have felt the blow more harshly than others but all are united in their optimistic outlook.

Here are some of their stories:

WALK ON BY: Farewell to Gravesend Woolies.

Single mother-of-three Frances Laurie, 55, of St Hildas Way, Gravesend says things could be tough over the coming weeks following the loss of her family's only source of income.

Having worked as a sales assistant at the store for six years, she needs to find a job to support her 14 and 16-year-old children.

She said: "It's come pretty hard for me. I have got one child at school and another at college so I have to find money for them.

"I said I wasn't going to let it affect me until after Christmas for the kids but it is always on your mind. You feel like you have always got to be out looking for work."

Like many other former Woolworths employees Ms Laurie is yet to find a job and with the credit crunch biting hard she is keeping her options open.

She said: "I have just got to look for a job. I have been to places like Bluewater but I think it is just the wrong time of year. It's really hard for everybody.

"I have got to move forward and start looking for other types of employment but it is whether or not the jobs are available at the end of the day."

Some of the employees had spent their entire working lives at the store and many thought that they had a job for life.

Former sales assistant Pam Broad, 53, of Singlewell Road, Gravesend, started work on the frozen food counter 37 years ago aged just 16.

She said: "I was shocked when we were told really. When I was first taken on, provided that you didn't do anything silly, you thought that you had a job until you retired."

After working at the store for so many years Mrs Broad says she is finding it hard to adjust to life without a job, adding: "It seems very odd now not to get up at 6 o'clock every morning and go in to work in the store room."

But with her husband currently bringing money into the home Mrs Broad recognises she is one of the lucky ones.

She said: "It's not as bad for me as it is some of the others who haven't got husbands earning money. You just have to stay optimistic I think."

Former team leader Kay Broad, 41, of Keary Road, Swanscombe, says she spent a considerable amount of her and her husband's savings on a new car just weeks before finding out she was going to lose her job.

She said: "I feel that they could have told us the truth more. We all found out what was happening through the press before we were told at work and I feel that is wrong.

"The worse bit was that we spent a lot of our savings on a new car and just paid out £4,000 to have the lounge redecorated. We didn't have any idea."

With her husband unable to work due to disability Mrs Broad says she needs to find a new job but remains optimistic about her future prospects.

She said: "I have been there a long time and I know it's difficult to get work these days but at the end of the day it's a new beginning. One door closes and another one opens. It has happened now we just have to go forwards."

Credit crunch hits more town shops

SCORES of famous chains across north Kent have been affected by the credit crisis in the last few months.

Furniture retailer MFI, off Princes Road, Dartford has closed and music and games chain Zavvi, with branches in Bluewater shopping centre and the Orchards shopping centre, Dartford are currently in administration and expected to close.

Zavvi, formerly Virgin Megastore, had all of its products supplied by Entertainment UK (EUK) part of Woolworths group.

Home furnishings store The Pier, in Bluewater collapsed and held massive reductions as they also sold fixtures and fittings.

Children's clothes retailer Adams, which has a branch at the Orchards, Dartford filed for administration in December.

Q Breweries, the company which owns the Riva bar and restaurant on West Street, Gravesend Town Pier, has also called in administrators Smith and Williamson Ltd.

They have taken over the running of Riva and are continuing to trade while they look for a suitable buyer.

The Officers Club, with a store in Gravesend, and Whittard and Chelsea, based in Bluewater, fell in to administration in the lead up to Christmas before being immediately rescued.

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Gravesend Reporter. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Gravesend Reporter