Woolworths executives have vowed to support the 130 staff employed at the conglomerate’s original Pakenham supermarket, amid revelations the store will permanently shut down on 29 January, 2019.
The future of dozens of casual workers is up in the air – given the company has no obligation to retain their employment.
Directors decided to slash the store from the chain’s national line-up last month, opting not to renew the upcoming lease for the iconic John Street site.
It comes approximately two months after frozen meals manufacturer Simplot announced the proposed closure of its Pakenham plant, leaving 154 employees in the lurch.
Woolworths confirmed to the Gazette that rumours surrounding the supermarket’s closure were accurate.
“On Tuesday, 29 January, the Woolworths Pakenham store will close permanently,” a spokesperson said.
“We are fully committed to supporting all 130 team members, who we aim to redeploy in other stores in the area.”
“We wish to thank our customers for their support and we look forward to welcoming them at our neighbouring store at Pakenham Marketplace.”
Many workers are expected to be filtered through to Woolworths’ supermarkets in Marketplace, Lakeside, Officer and Beaconsfield.
The closure comes, amid increasing pressure from rival supermarket titans.
The supermarket’s sudden demise will leave just one remaining Woolworths in Pakenham’s CBD.
Acknowledged by the community as “Paky’s first Safeway”, the announced closure has hit close to home for a number of life-long residents.
“I love this Woollies – it is way better than the other one,” customer Jade Kercheval said.
“Why does Pakenham have to lose the places that have the most history and heritage?”
Former employee Louisa Maxwell paid tribute to the Woolworths supermarket.
“I got my first ever job there at the tender age of 15,” she said.
“The staff there are absolutely fantastic.
“Some that I worked with are still there to this day.”
The company’s flagship Pakenham store, Woolworths Marketplace, opened in 2011 as part of a 36 store shopping complex – injecting $70 million into the suburb.
The original Woolworths – a major tenant of Pakenham Place – was already trading for 30 years prior.
Many were confused by the Marketplace location; given it is only a four-minute walk from Pakenham Place.
In 2012, speculation mounted that the John Street outlet would be shut down to allow the chain to focus on the new multi-million dollar facility.
However, Woolworths Limited was adamant the John Street store would stay in business.
Shoppers have also expressed concern about the inconsistency between the two stores’ operating hours.
While the soon-to-close John Street Woolworths remains open until midnight, Marketplace closes at 9pm.
“A lot of people like to do their grocery shopping later at night when it’s quiet and you’ve had some time to wind down from work,” Kooweerup’s Douglas Porter said.
“It doesn’t make sense to be losing stores when the population keeps rapidly increasing.”
The company posted a 12.5 per cent rise in profit for the 2018 financial year, announcing it would increase dividend payments to shareholders by more than 20 per cent.
However, directors flagged that sales growth would drop off as a result of the company’s ban on free single-use plastic bags.
The store has faced additional financial pressure since German retail powerhouse Aldi revealed it was opening a second supermarket in Pakenham’s CBD.
Woolworths Limited failed to disclose the specific reasons behind the decision.