London: British household goods discount retailer Wilko said it had fallen into administration on Thursday, putting its 400 stores and 12,500 jobs in danger if a buyer can’t be found.
The family-owned retailer sought protection from creditors after failing to secure emergency funding, having suffered a cash squeeze following a downturn in trading.
“We left no stone unturned when it came to preserving this incredible business but must concede that with regret, we’ve no choice but to take the difficult decision to enter into administration,” Wilko Chief Executive Mark Jackson said.
Administrator PwC said the retailer’s stores would continue to trade without any immediate redundancies as talks with interested parties continue.
However, PwC warned: “If buyers for some or all of the group are not found, it is likely that store closures and redundancies will follow.”
Wilko, which sells everything from hardware goods to cleaning products, toys and gardening equipment, has an annual turnover of 1.2 billion pounds ($1.53 billion).
It is Britain’s biggest retail casualty since convenience store chain McColl’s collapsed in May last year. McColl’s was subsequently bought by supermarket group Morrisons.
Jackson said Wilko had received “a significant level of interest,” including indicative offers that could recapitalise the business.
However, “without the surety of being able to complete the deal within the necessary time frame and given the cash position, we’ve been left with no choice but to take this unfortunate action,” he said.
Wilko started in 1930 as a single hardware store in Leicester, central England, but fell victim to Britain’s tougher economic environment and cost of living crisis, grappling with high inflation and 14 consecutive interest rate rises since December 2021.
Despite the squeeze on household incomes, most UK high street chains, including Wilko’s main discount rivals — B&M, Poundland, Aldi and Lidl — have traded resiliently through the economic downturn.