All 300 remaining Wilko stores are set to close by early October, and the retailer’s entire staff are “likely” to lose their jobs, after HMV owner Doug Putman’s attempt to rescue hundreds of the collapsed retailers’ shops from administration fell apart.
Putman, who led the turnaround of HMV, had reportedly been in talks about saving around 200 of Wilko’s 400 shops, having initially hoped to buy as many as 300. However, he has now said that he would not participate in the bidding.
Putman said: “It is with great disappointment that we can no longer continue in the purchase process for Wilko having worked with administrators and suppliers over several weeks to seek a viable way to rescue it as a going concern.”
It was initially hoped that a rival discount chain such as Poundland would buy some shops, but now the GMB Union, which represents around a third of Wilko’s staff, said all remaining shops will close in what it called the “death knell” for the chain.
Last week, B&M rescued 52 Wilko stores from administration. These are likely to be rebranded as B&M shops.
Nadine Houghton, GMB national officer, said: “Wilko was far more than a brand, a retailer or the products it sold, it was the thousands of loyal team members now facing an uncertain future.
“Wilko may have ceased genuinely being a family brand many years ago, but the staff kept the real family ethos of wilko alive until the very end. It is the family that wilko colleagues made for themselves that will be missed the most.
“This isn’t a tragedy without cause. Wilko should have thrived in a bargain retail sector that is otherwise strong, but it was run into the ground by the business owners.
Houghton pointed to the firm’s dividend policy in the years leading up to its collapse into administration.
“Money was siphoned out of the business for dividends, warnings about what needed to be done to save the business were not heeded and advice around what the business to do to thrive was not listened to,” she said.
“No worker caused the downfall of Wilko. But they will be the ones who will suffer – all as the owners get off scot-free. GMB will not stop campaigning for the owners of this debacle to be held to account.”
Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets, at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ‘’Wilko faces disappearing from the high street after a rescue bid to save the name and a vast chunk of stores appears to have collapsed. This is the news thousands of staff had been fearing, and with hopes of a white knight rescue receding into the distance, they are staring at the prospect of redundancy.
“There is a chance that the brand itself may survive but as a range on another retailer’s shelves. But it looks like the famous red and white shopfronts will be dismantled and Wilko will join Woolworths in the high street history books.”
Administrators at PwC took over Wilko last month and have been aiming to secure as much value as possible for its creditors by selling off any parts of the business that they can.