All 400 Wilko stores across the UK will close by early October, the GMB union has confirmed in a “devastating” statement released earlier this morning.
The news means that the Wilko brand, which was born in Leicester, will disappear from UK High Streets within a matter of weeks, leaving 12,500 people redundant.
It comes after a rescue deal for the chain fell through. The billionaire owner of HMV, Doug Putman, hoped to keep up to 300 Wilko shops open, but his bid failed as rising costs complicated the deal.
In a letter to employees, Nadine Houghton, national officer at the GMB union said: “We are incredibly sorry to have to share the devastating news that PWC have confirmed the previous offer being explored for the sale of hundreds of stores as a going concern has fallen through.
“There is now no prospect of saving the remaining store estate in its entirety and all Wilko stores will close by early October with DCs to close on Friday, 15th September.
“Although separate bids may be made for leases of groups of sites, these deals will not secure jobs, although the option to take up new employment with the bidders for these sites is something we are now pushing for.
“This is not the news our members or the GMB had been hoping for or working towards.
“We share the sorrow and anger of every Wilko team member today.”
The company, which was founded in Leicester in 1930, has struggled with strong competition from rival chains like B&M, Poundland, The Range and Home Bargains, as the high cost of living has pushed shoppers to seek out bargains.
B&M has said it will take on up to 51 of Wilko’s 400 shops in a deal worth £13m. However, it is understood that the stores will be rebranded as B&M shops.
“Wilko was far more than a brand, a retailer or the products, it was the thousands of loyal team members now facing an uncertain future,” said Ms Houghton of the company’s collapse.
“It may have ceased genuinely being a family brand many years ago, but you, the staff kept the real family ethos of Wilko alive until the very end. We know it is the family you have made for yourselves that will be so sorely missed.”