12,500 jobs left as Wilko name disappears from high street
Homewares chain Wilko is set to disappear from the high street, with the loss of up to 12,500 jobs.
Rescue talks had been underway to try to save its 400 stores after the company went into receivership last month.
It is one of the biggest retail collapses in recent years following the demise of Debenhams and the Arcadia empire, which owns Topshop.
Redundancies now loom for Wilko’s 12,500 employees, who have been anxiously awaiting the outcome of emergency talks between bidders and PwC administrators.
Yesterday PwC confirmed that all Wilko stores would close at the beginning of October, with the first ones closing from today.
Two of Wilko’s distribution centers in Nottinghamshire and Wales will also close next week.
Talks to save the store with Doug Putman, the Canadian tycoon behind entertainment retailer HMV, failed.
Putman wanted to maintain up to 300 Wilko stores, but the costs required to rework the company’s supply chains proved impossible to overcome. He said: “It is a huge disappointment that we can no longer continue the process of purchasing Wilko, having worked with administrators and suppliers for several weeks to find a viable way to rescue it as a going concern.”
“A stable foundation could not be secured to ensure the long-term success of the company and its people in the way we would have liked.”
Retail rival B&M has announced it will buy up to 51 stores from Wilko for £13m. However, it is believed that they will be renamed B&M stores.
It is also unclear whether Wilko staff would be retained at these sites or given any preference for new jobs there. Discounter Poundland is also believed to be considering opening 70 stores as it looks to expand during the cost of living crisis.
Home goods company The Range is in talks to buy the Wilko brand, but not its stores.
Zelf Hussain, joint administrator at PwC, said: “We continue to work with potential buyers for different parts of the business and are confident of completing the transactions in the coming days.”
A Wilko worker, speaking anonymously to BBC News, said the future was uncertain and she was deeply disappointed by the bailout talks. “Now I feel sick and tired; everyone is stressed,” she said.
The company was founded by James Kemsey ‘JK’ Wilkinson in 1930 with a single hardware store in Leicester.
The company’s owners have been criticized in recent weeks for the £77m distributed to former shareholders over the last decade.
Nadine Houghton, of the GMB union, said: ‘Wilko may have stopped being a genuinely family-owned brand many years ago, but staff kept Wilko’s true family spirit alive to the end.
“Wilko should have thrived in an otherwise strong retail sector, but was ruined by the business owners.”