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Collapsed retailer Wilko will disappear from the high street by early October after a rescue deal for a large chunk of the discount chain fell through, putting more than 10,000 jobs at risk.
About 300 Wilko stores and its distribution centers will shut in the coming weeks, the GMB union said on Monday, adding there was “no prospect” of saving the outlets. Administrators PwC declined to comment.
The administrators had already sold 51 sites to discounter B&M for £13mn and announced 52 closures following Wilko’s collapse in August.
The absence of a comprehensive rescue deal makes Wilko one of the biggest retail casualties in the UK since the collapse of Sir Philip Green’s retail empire and department store chain Debenhams, and more recently McColl’s, the corner shop chain that was subsequently bought by Morrisons.
Like many high street chains, the retailer was hit by inflationary pressures and supply chain problems amid a cash crunch.
The GMB said: “Although separate bids may be made for leases of groups of sites, these deals will not secure jobs.”
It said it was “pushing” for any prospective new owners to retain as many Wilko staff as possible but redundancy was now likely for all 12,500 workers. About 1,500 redundancies had previously been announced.
Rival discount retailer Poundland was among those to have expressed an interest in acquiring some of Wilko’s stores, according to two people close to the process. Poundland declined to comment.
Doug Putman, the Canadian owner of music retailer HMV, had been working on a deal to acquire at least 100 Wilko sites but no deal was reached, according to people familiar with the matter. A representative for Putman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“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,” he told the Sun.
Locations for the next wave of closures will be announced on Tuesday, with a further update for the remaining 124 stores expected next week, the GMB said.
Employees will be asked to work two extra days after the stores have closed and some staff will also stay on at the distribution centers for up to 14 days as operations are wound down.
The chain borrowed £40mn from Hilco, the restructuring specialist, at the turn of the year to stay afloat. Hilco is separately advising PwC on the liquidation of some assets, including stock — a relationship GMB has criticized previously, arguing Hilco had too much influence over the administration process, which Hilco denies.