Darrell Lea closed all but one of its ACT stores yesterday, axing about a dozen jobs and leaving Canberra chocoholics in despair.
The 85-year-old company, which went into receivership three weeks ago, announced at 2pm yesterday it would close three of its four ACT stores.
Roughly 12 staff, mostly casual, will lose their jobs across the Woden, Belconnen, and Tuggeranong stores.
The Civic store survived the cuts, which only applied to ''underperforming'' parts of the business.
Within an hour of the shock announcement, staff had disappeared, removalists were taking stock from the shelves, and the shutters were being rolled down to close the Woden store.
Australia-wide, 32 Darrell Lea stores will be closed, resulting in the loss of 167 casual jobs, 16 part-time jobs and 15 full-time jobs. Thirty-four stores will remain open.
The closures come despite impressive national retail results issued yesterday, which revealed the best sales results for department stores in a year.
The news drew mixed reactions from loyal customers in Woden yesterday, as they read a closure notice stuck to the front of the store. Some, including Kathy from Richardson, described it as a ''sad day'' for those who grew up on Darrell Lea sweets.
''Every Easter, my brothers and I would receive the nougat-filled chocolates from Darrell Lea … they had the little duck on top,'' she said.
''It's just been part of life, going back a long time.''
Chifley resident Ruth Idstein, who was already making weekly trips to the store, stepped up her visits upon hearing the news of Darrell Lea's financial woes.
She was joined by many others, with sales reportedly tripling since it went into administration.
''We frequented it more often because it was [struggling], not that that would help, it was too late,'' she said.
''I'm not too sad, it's only luxury stuff anyway.''
Founder Harry Lea began making confectionary in 1917, and opened his first shop in NSW 10 years later.
The company has been controlled by the Lea family ever since.
Administrator PPB Advisory said it was closing ''a number of underperforming retail outlets in order to reshape Darrell Lea and enhance its appeal to potential purchasers''.
There will be no changes to manufacturing, warehousing and head office operations which will continue to operate on a business-as-usual basis.
PPB Advisory will ''work closely with all affected staff and their representatives regarding employee entitlements''.
The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees Association, the union representing retail workers, could not be reached for comment last night.
Employment Minister Bill Shorten said the federal government would work with PPB to ensure employee entitlements were resolved. with AAP