Most Wilko stores will close within weeks, the union representing around a third of its staff has revealed, after it said an attempt to rescue the beloved high-street retailer out of administration “fell through”.
“This means redundancies for staff in store and at call centres will begin during the coming week,” it said. “Some stores may be bought, either individually or as part of larger packages, but significant job losses are now expected.”
The union had initially said the closures would take place next week, before an updated statement said the closures would be “within weeks”.
Adminsitrators at PwC have been trying to sell any Wilko, on the whole or in parts, in order to realise any remaining value in the business.
A purchase of the entire business was seen as unlikely, as Wilko’s previous management had already tried to sell the company as a whole. But it was hoped that a buyer could still aim to keep a large number of Wilko’s 400 shops open. Now it seems any successful bidder may only save a small number of shops, or may only buy non-shop assets such as Wilko’s intellectual property.
It had previously been expected that a deal would come this week, and the Standard understands that there were multiple bids on the table, though it is not known how many shops - if any - those bidders had sought to buy.
Andy Prendergast, GMB national secretary, said: “GMB Union will continue to support members through this process and will fight to ensure members are consulted as per the law and that you receive every penny you are entitled to.
“We will fight to ensure Wilko bosses are held accountable for the simple reason our members deserve so much better.”
Prendergast also alluded to the fact that Wilko had paid out dividends to shareholders even as it was close to collapse. The company paid out a £3 million dividend in 2022.
“GMB will not forget the incompetence that has led to this collapse and will we not forget the dividends paid to the millionaires who gambled your jobs on their whims,” he said.
Fellow bargain retailers like Poundland and B&M, as well as Laura Ashley owner Gordon Brothers, had been rumoured to be among the businesses considering buying Wilko.
Wilko entered administration two weeks ago. At the time, CEO Mark Jackson, appointed only eight months earlier to save the already ailing business, said management “left no stone unturned” to keep the chain formerly known as Wilkinson Hardware Stores alive.
Administrators from PricewaterhouseCoopers said: “Since our appointment as administrators of wilko we have held extensive discussions with parties who expressed an interest in buying all or part of the business. While discussions continue with those interested in buying parts of the business, it’s clear that the nature of this interest is not focused on the whole group. Sadly, it is therefore likely that there will be redundancies and store closures in the future and it has today been necessary to update employee representatives.
“We know this will further add to the uncertainty felt by workers. We will be supporting staff through this deeply unsettling time, working closely with the government, JobCentre plus, unions and large employers to maximise possibilities for a rapid return to work for employees in the event of redundancies.
“In the immediate term, all stores remain open, continue to trade and staff continue to be paid. Contrary to speculation, there are currently no plans to close any stores next week.”
How many Wilko stores are in London?
Wilko operates 26 shops in London currently. The locations are:
Kensington High Street