Monday 25 September 2023
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Wilko to vanish from UK high streets as rescue deal collapses

In a significant blow to the UK retail landscape, the Wilko brand is set to disappear from High Streets across the country.

The GMB union announced that all 400 Wilko stores will shutter their doors by early October after a rescue deal for the beleaguered chain fell apart.

The closure puts 12,500 jobs at the family-owned business in jeopardy, with administrators expected to reveal further details on redundancies soon.

Doug Putman, the billionaire owner of HMV, had aspired to salvage up to 300 Wilko outlets. However, his efforts were thwarted by escalating costs that complicated the transaction.

Currently, there are no interested parties willing to operate stores under the Wilko brand, although some have expressed interest in rebranding the existing locations.

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The company has been grappling with fierce competition from discount chains such as B&M, Poundland, The Range, and Home Bargains. The rising cost of living has driven consumers to seek more affordable shopping alternatives, giving an edge to Wilko’s rivals.

In a related development, B&M announced plans to acquire up to 51 of the closing Wilko stores in a £13 million deal. While these locations could be rebranded as B&M outlets, it remains uncertain whether any Wilko employees will retain their jobs or be given priority in hiring at the new B&M locations.

The shift in consumer behaviour towards larger retail parks and out-of-town shopping options since the onset of the pandemic has also contributed to Wilko’s struggles. Many of its stores are situated in traditional town centres, locations that have become less appealing to shoppers in the current climate.

Poundland is reportedly considering the acquisition of up to 70 Wilko stores to bolster its own retail footprint. Additionally, the Wilko brand name itself has attracted potential bidders, including The Range, which has expressed interest in acquiring the name.

As the UK High Street faces yet another retail casualty, the fate of thousands of workers hangs in the balance, and communities across the country brace for the loss of a familiar storefront.

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