A closing down sale was launched across Woolworths’ estate this morning after its administrators failed to find a buyer for the whole business.

Despite rumours yesterday that former Kingfisher CEO Sir Geoff Mulcahy was considering a last-ditch bid for the stricken chain, administrator Deloitte said it would start the sale of Woolworths assets.

“We continue to make every effort to convert interest in the Woolworths assets into firm offers,” said Neville Kahn, reorganisation services partner at Deloitte.

“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.”

Deloitte also admitted some stores may have to close before Christmas, back-tracking on previous announcements that stores would remain open until January.

The Grocer revealed in November that retailers including 99p Stores and Poundland were keen to snap up Woolworths stores.