WILKO is on the brink of administration, putting 400 stores and thousands of jobs at risk – and customers are devastated too.
The bargain retailer today filed a notice of intent to appoint administrators.
It comes as Wilko's owners were said to be exploring the sale of a controlling stake just last month.
But fans of the store – a Fabulous favourite – it’s come as heartbreaking news.
And not just because the discount chain has 400 shops and employs about 12,000 people.
Rev Mark Edwards, 60, a vicar from Newcastle, said he was devastated and would pray for the shop’s survival.
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"I'll be the first in the queue for the closing down sale if it happens,” he told Fabulous.
“I can't believe this is happening.
“As a huge fan of Wilko, formerly known as Wilkson, this news is utterly shocking and horrifying.
“Wilko has been an integral part of our high streets, filling the void left by Woolworths, and it has been a significant part of my life for years.
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“I still cherish Christmas decorations that I bought from Wilko 15 years ago when I was a priest in Barrow-in-Furness.
“I couldn't pass a Wilko without going in and spending a fortune. It was like a treasure trove, and I would find all sorts of goodies and essentials there. I once went in just to buy a roll of sellotape, and somehow, I managed to spend over £100! Needless to say, my wife wasn’t pleased.”
He admitted his wife “wasn’t pleased.”
“Even my family teases me about my Wilko obsession, and my wife doesn't trust me to go in there by myself because she knows I'll end up overspending.
“My twin boys have even devised strategies to distract me from noticing Wilko when we're on holiday! It has become a family joke, but I know they do it out of love.
“These days if we are in Wilkos without their mother to police my shopping habits they take photos of me in the store then WhatsApp to their mother and then I am bombarded with text from my wife telling me not to spend anything.”
He said he felt especially sad for the staff.
“It's devastating to think that such a popular high street brand, so beloved by many, is facing this fate,” he said.
“Something must have gone seriously wrong for such a cherished store to face closure. I can't help but feel for the employees who are at risk of losing their jobs. Wilko has been a source of joy and convenience for countless people, and it's truly distressing to see it in this position. It’s a brand we have all come to love.”
His views were echoed by Amber Leach, 41, married to Jesse Leach, 37, who works as a wedding photographer. She was heartbroken to learn Wilkos had gone into administration.
The mum-of-three, from Plymouth, Devon, said: "I love Wilko – I'm one of its biggest fans and was devastated to hear the news today.
"I go there all the time – at least once a week and there is barely a section I haven't used.
"I buy all my Christmas pressies there.
"I love the homeware and the gardening section is fab too. I even use the pets' bit for my nan's cat.
"I get all my cleaning stuff and baby stuff as well"
Amber found it really came into its own in 2020 when she and Jesse decided to renovate the basement of their home to use as an Airbnb.
"We had to do it on a budget and needed paint and home stuff," she said.
"We even needed soft furnishings so we were there all the time. We must have spent loads.
"Over the years we must have thousands."
And she had praise for the staff, who are sadly set to lose their jobs.
"They probably recognise me," she said. "They are so nice.
"I can't believe my favourite shop is on the out.
"It's stuff is stylish, cheap and really good value for money. It's good quality too – it's a blow for the British high street."
Wilko chief executive Mark Jackson confirmed there has been "significant levels of interest" but that the business has not yet received an offer.
And it has resulted in the retailer having to take the "difficult decision to file an NOI [notice of intention]."
He said: "We’ll continue to progress discussions with interested parties with the aim of completing a transaction which preserves the business."
The retailer is being advised by PwC, while property agents CBRE have been brought on board to negotiate with landlords.
A notice of intention gives Wilko a ten-day window to secure a deal while protected from action by other creditors.
If Wilko does file for administration this means all control of the business is passed to an appointed administrator – who has to be a licensed insolvency practitioner.
Their goal is to leverage the company's assets and business to repay creditors.
It doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the business.
Instead, administrators will try to help a company find ways to repay debts or solve its cash flow problems.
Administration can last anywhere from a few weeks to up to a year or more.
But if the administration process can't rescue the company or find a new owner, this usually leads to liquidation.
Liquidation is the process of selling all assets and then dissolving the company completely.
Wilko is yet to confirm exactly what will happen to all stores and 12,000 jobs.
It comes after the company announced plans to close more than a dozen of its shops in January last year.
Then in February 2023, it revealed it planned to cut over 400 jobs, including both store and head office roles.
Wilko, like many other high street retailers, is said to have seen a big drop in footfall and has "stopped performing to its full potential".
Retailers have been feeling the pinch since the pandemic while shoppers are cutting back on spending due to soaring inflation.
High energy costs and a shift to shopping online after the pandemic are also taking a toll and many high street shops have struggled to keep going.
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Numerous high street brands have collapsed into administration in the last 12 months.
From the Scottish clothing brand M&Co to wellies store Joules, a number of familiar brands went bust in 2022.
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