The West of England’s Metro Mayor Dan Norris has said his local authority “stands ready” to help hundreds of Wilko workers in the region after the retailer entered administration.
The chain, which has five stores in the Bristol area, told staff on Thursday that it had appointed administrators after failing to secure a rescue deal.
Administrators from PwC said the retailer has suffered “increasing cashflow pressure and a deterioration in trading” after sales were impacted by the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis. They will now seek out potential buyers for the firm’s store estate and its brand.
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Mr Norris described the development as “really concerning”, adding packages of support from his Mayoral Combined Authority and training courses were available to help workers to find new jobs if they were made redundant.
The Labour mayor said: “This is really concerning news, not least for the dozens of workers who will now be worrying about what this means for them, and the fact they are now at risk of losing their jobs in the middle of a really tough and frightening cost-of-living crisis. I hope a solution can be found to keep as many jobs and stores safe as possible. And help is at hand from my Mayoral Combined Authority to help locals made redundant to find new job opportunities.
Dan Norris is the new Mayor of the West of England (Image: West of England Combined authority) “There are plenty of jobs out there – in retail, but also in other sectors with employers who would really value workers with these types of skillsets. My Mayoral Combined Authority stands ready to help affected workers have access to the services and resources they need to find a good-quality, unionised roles as soon as possible.”
Wilko chief executive Mark Jackson said the company had received “a significant level of interest” but was “left with no choice but to take this unfortunate action” after being unable to close a deal in time.
In a letter, he said: “Over the past six months Wilko has been very open that we’ve been considering options to accelerate a turnaround plan, given that we needed to make significant changes to the way we operate to restore confidence and stabilise our business.
“We left no stone unturned when it came to preserving this incredible business but must concede that, with regret, we’ve no choice but to take the difficult decision to enter into administration. We’ve all fought hard to keep this incredible business intact but must concede that time has run out and now we must do what’s best to preserve as many jobs as possible, for as long as is possible, by working with our appointed administrators.”
The retailer was founded as a hardware shop in Leicester in 1930, but quickly expanded across the UK, growing into other markets such as garden products and stationery. Wilko has grown to currently run around 400 stores and employ 12,500 workers.
It is understood Wilko held talks with private equity firms Gordon Brothers, which owns Laura Ashley, and Alteri as it sought funding to keep it afloat, but was unable to strike a deal.
Zelf Hussain, joint administrator and PwC partner, said: “It is incredibly sad that a well-loved, family business that has been on the high street for over 90 years has had to go into administration today.
“As administrators, we will continue to engage with parties who may be interested in acquiring all or part of the business.
“Stores will continue to trade as normal for the time being and staff will continue to be paid.”
Elsewhere in the South West, there are Wilko stores in Weston-super-Mare, Bridgwater, Taunton, Yeovil, Weymouth, Exeter, Barnstaple, Newton Abbot, Torquay and Plymouth. The chain also has stores in St Austell, Truro, Falmouth and Redruth.
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