Yarmouth’s Ethel Austin store closure shock

THE administrators of Ethel Austin were this week roundly criticised for keeping staff in the dark about the store’s future and giving them just one hour’s notice to close it.

Workers at the Great Yarmouth store spoke this week of the brutal suddenness of Tuesday’s closure, just days after they were assured it was not among those that would be shutting.

Some workers arriving back after lunch found they had been locked out.

All 18 staff were told in person by a representative from head office that they had to close the store and come in the following day to pack up the remaining stock to send off to other stores, most of which have been re-branded Life & Style.

Dale Bilyard, a supervisor, who worked on the same site for Woolworth’s for eight years, said the treatment of staff had been terrible, with many people in tears when the shock announcement was made.

That rumours had emerged since that Poundworld was taking over the store, and had been advertising for staff since Friday, had added to their upset and sense of injustice, he said.

“We rang up a few days ago and they told us we were not closing. We all feel very let down and now have to re-apply with Poundworld. It is very disappointing. Everyone is very upset. This store has done really well, one of their best, and that has gone against us.”

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Kerry Saunders, who has worked at the store since it opened in 2009, said since it had emerged that so much had been going on behind their backs she felt very let down and was also disappointed no-one had told them the new jobs had been advertised.

For Steph Jennings, 54, from Ormesby, losing her job at the same store for the second time was “just horrendous.”

Finding herself redundant with Woolworth’s after 37 years was deeply upsetting, but at least they were kept informed about developments she said. This time they were told on June 9 that the chain had gone into administration; then received one or two emails prior to the bombshell announcement on Tuesday.

“I went to dinner from 3-4pm and could not get back in. The trouble is that no-one seems to care.”

She said she understood Poundworld were capping the number of applications at 300.

A spokesman for Poundworld said the company was opening new stores all the time, and was unable to confirm whether one of them was in Yarmouth.

Great Yarmouth Jobcentre Plus said Discount UK, was advertising for retail sales and security staff for a Market Place store but could not say whether this was Ethel Austin or another shop.

One of the first Discount UK stores opened earlier this year in Stevenage selling household goods, medicines and sweets. The company also owns Poundworld.

Administrators RSM Tenon told the Mercury earlier this month that the Yarmouth store was not among the 28 earmarked for closure and that they were holding a closing down sale to generate cash. However, the spokesman said it was a high pressure situation that was changing all the time.

When the Yarmouth store opened in November 2009 around 150 people queued outside to take advantage of opening offers.