Wilko: Majority of stores to close “within a week” as Poundland and B&M in talks to buy some shops
Fears for thousands of retail jobs at Wilko have deepened following a warning from a trade union.
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The majority of Wilko stores are set to close “within a week” according to the GMB union as Poundland and B&M owners eye 100 of its shops. Wilko administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) are in advanced talks to carve up parts of the chains 400 stores, with Poundland’s owner, Pepco Group, in discussions to acquire roughly 100 stores.
According to Sky News, B&M European Retail is also in negotiations to take on between 40 and 50 shops. Other value retailers, including TOFS, which is owned by the private equity firm Duke Street, have lodged offers to acquire smaller about 10 sites.
An announcement is expected to be made by PwC soon outlining the sale agreements with at least some of the bidders. If agreements with Pepco, B&M and TOFS are finalised, it is likely to mean that more than 200 Wilko stores will face permanent closure - affecting around 6,000 jobs.
In a statement, the GMB Union said: "In a meeting with administrators today, GMB Union was informed there is no longer any prospect that the majority of the business will be saved. This means redundancies for staff in store and at call centres will begin during the coming week.
"Some stores may be bought, either individually or as part of larger packages, but significant job losses are now expected."
Andy Prendergast, GMB national secretary, told Wilko’s 12,000-strong workforce that it would "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".
He added: "We will fight to ensure Wilko bosses are held accountable for the simple reason our members deserve so much better. 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. "
In a statement, the joint administrators of Wilko denied the claims and said: “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.”
But the administrators admitted “redundancies and store closures in the future” were “likely” and said employees representatives had been informed.
The statement from Jane Steer, Zelf Hussain and Edward Williams of PwC, joint administrators of Wilkinson Hardware Stores Ltd, Wilko Ltd and Wilko.com Ltd, continued: “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.”
Reacting to the GMB statement, Jonathan Reynolds, Labour’s shadow business secretary, said: "This is devastating news that will likely see stores close across the country. Their loss will have a massive impact on their high streets and my thoughts are with those Wilko staff and their families facing this dreadful news. Sadly, shuttered up shops and struggling high streets has become the norm after 13 years of Conservative economic failure.
"Labour has a plan for our high streets. We will tackle the things holding firms back by reforming business rates, cracking down on anti-social behaviour and putting an end to empty premises to bring shoppers back to their high street."