Woolworths could be closed down for good by Jan. 5 at a cost of 27,000 jobs if no one comes forward before that date to buy the collapsed retailer's stores, its administrators said Wednesday.

Deloitte, which was appointed to run Woolworths after it filed for a form of bankruptcy protection last month, said talks were ongoing with potential buyers for parts of the group's 800-plus chain of U.K. stores, but that in the meantime it was going ahead with a shutdown plan.

Neville Kahn, joint administrator of Woolworths, said the group's stores would close in stages from Dec. 27.

"Obviously, if we have a sale of the business between now and then, there's a prospect for the stores to stay open," Kahn told reporters.

Deloitte last week launched a closing down sale at Woolworths stores, slashing prices of goods ranging from toys and DVDs to kitchenware by up to 50%.

Kahn said that he had received interest from alternative retailers for more than 300 Woolworths stores, with queries coming from Asia, Africa and the Americas as well as domestic institutions.

However, he said talks about a potential sale had never been close to a deal.

"We have been in detailed discussions with people ... but we haven't got to a position which I would say was very close," he said.

Kahn said a total of 22,000 permanent staff and 5,000 temporary workers will be affected by the collapse.

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