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Last-minute rescue deal for Wilko collapses and 12,500 job losses confirmed

Nick Cheek
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Nick Cheek

The future of 90-year-old retailer Wilko appears to have finally been sealed as its administrators reportedly announced 400 stores in the UK will close in early October.

The GMB Union, which represents 4,000 Wilko employees, reports that administrator PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has confirmed a rescue package by HMV owner and Canadian billionaire Doug Putmanto keep 300 stores open had collapsed on Monday morning.

All 12,500 workers of the family-run business will be made redundant, and the union described the collapse as “devastating”.

The union wrote: “You deserved so much more than this and we will continue to work so you are treated with the respect you deserve during the remaining days and wind down and we will not stop working to ensure those responsible for this debacle are held to account in the future.”

Nadine Houghton, GMB national officer, said: “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 had to do to thrive was not listened to.”

Employees ‘deserved so much more’

Since the beginning of August, when the retailer filed its ‘notice of intention to appoint administrators’ (NOI) at the High Court, hopes of survival have been raised and dashed.

Following the news, Dr Ventsislav Ivanov, business expert at Oxford Business College, said: “The collapse of Wilko’s last-minute rescue deal brings further uncertainty to thousands of employees, who now face a further wave of redundancies.

“The company now looks set to become the latest victim of the battle between in-person and internet sales, which is increasingly being won by online retailers. Popular legacy brands that have been regular fixtures in our towns and cities for decades are finding it increasingly hard to survive in the cost-of-living crisis.

The retailer entered administration on 10 August and a deadline was set of 16 August to interested parties wanting to make a takeover bid.

Closures of all 400 shops to commence in early October

Throughout the month, Doug Putman and private equity firm M2 Capital emerged as the two favourites to be the winning bidder.

However last week, on a dramatic day of developments, PwC announced 52 stores would close and 1,300 employees would lose their jobs. Meanwhile, B&M European Value Retail S.A. confirmed on the same day it had entered into an agreement to buy up to 51 properties for £13m, operating under the B&M brand.

Despite a full takeover remaining fanciful, Doug Putman was in pole position to purchase the stricken company, until today. The Guardian reported the businessman 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.

“Commitment to overhauling the trading framework of the business with partners and the costs of running Wilko’s legacy operations infrastructure combined has meant that a stable foundation could not be secured to ensure long-term success for the business and its people in the way that we would have wanted.”