Last-ditch bids to save some Wilko stores as deadline looms

Efforts to salvage parts of collapsed UK retailer Wilko are ongoing despite a Friday bid deadline, but any deal looks unlikely to prevent significant closures and job losses.

Administrators PwC are seeking buyers for all or some of Wilko’s estate of over 400 stores and 12,500 staff. But Canadian businessman Doug Putman’s last-minute offer is seen as failing legal requirements.

Even if successful, Putman’s proposal would reportedly not stop most stores from shutting given Wilko’s financial woes. His firm Sunrise Records previously rescued music chain HMV in 2019.

But insiders say administrators are still working to secure any sale before the Friday deadline, even if most closures remain inevitable. Talks with multiple potential buyers are said to be continuing.

“As administrators we’re intent on achieving the best outcome possible while preserving as many jobs as feasible,” PwC said.

Wilko, known for household and garden goods, has faced fierce competition from discount chains like B&M, Poundland and Home Bargains amid the cost-of-living crisis.

The squeeze on budgets has driven shoppers towards rivals offering rock-bottom prices. Wilko has struggled with steep losses and cash shortfalls despite a customer base still over 10 million-strong.

Any deal will likely only save a portion of its sprawling estate and workforce. But administrators are focused on rescuing what they can, even if outright liquidation now appears the most probable outcome.

For staff and customers, the collapse represents the loss of another familiar high-street name after the demise of chains like Woolworths. But the discount sector’s cutthroat nature has overwhelmed Wilko’s dwindling finances.