The Range has reached a pivotal agreement to acquire the Wilko brand, marking a significant turn of events after a broader rescue effort for the entire business faltered. While this strategic manoeuvre grants The Range control over Wilko’s online platform and the potential to retail some of its products, it does not forestall the impending disappearance of Wilko stores from the United Kingdom’s High Streets. The transaction, reportedly valued at £5 million, carries far-reaching repercussions, with nearly all of Wilko’s 12,500 employees poised to lose their jobs as store closures become an inevitability.
Administrators overseeing the proceedings have disclosed that 36 Wilko employees have transitioned to The Range, with expectations of the online operations resuming early in October. The acquisition by The Range represents a lifeline for the Wilko brand, safeguarding its existence in a shifting retail landscape.
Jane Steer, one of the administrators from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), emphasised the enduring popularity and trust that the Wilko brand commands within the UK. Steer also underscored the significance of the deal with The Range in ensuring the continuity of the Wilko name.
The Range, an established presence with 210 stores across the UK, plans to further diversify its offerings by facilitating the sale of click-and-collect products through the Wilko.com website. Alex Simpkin, Chief Executive of The Range, expressed enthusiasm over the acquisition of the Wilko brand, emphasising its timeliness in a consumer landscape where shoppers increasingly seek confidence, value, and quality amid the ongoing cost of living crisis.
Wilko, traditionally associated with providing value-conscious shopping options, has witnessed a surge in consumer demand for affordable offerings during these challenging economic times. Founded in 1930, the company has been a longstanding fixture on High Streets throughout the country. However, the weight of sharp financial losses and a precarious liquidity position forced Wilko into administration in August.
Initially, Doug Putman, the billionaire owner of HMV, aspired to maintain the operation of up to 300 Wilko stores. However, his bid ultimately proved unsuccessful, with no other interested parties emerging to take on the task of running the stores under the Wilko banner.
Recent developments in this retail saga have seen the owner of Poundland securing the leases of approximately 71 Wilko stores, which will subsequently reopen under its own brand. Additionally, retail rival B&M has sealed a £13 million deal to acquire 51 of Wilko’s stores, signaling a redistribution of Wilko’s assets among competing industry players.