Poundland snaps up 71 Wilko stores: Glimmer of hope for staff as shop closures begin after collapse
Wilko staff were given a glimmer of hope last night as the owner of Poundland struck a deal to buy dozens of its closing stores.
As the shutters came down for the final time on the first 24 of the High Street retailer’s 398 shops, Pepco agreed to buy 71 in a move that could save some jobs.
That follows a deal last week that saw B&M agree to take on up to 51 stores – meaning a total of 122 have been given a new lease of life.
Administrators at PwC pointed out these sites employ 3,200 – raising hopes that staff could be kept on by B&M and Poundland who plan to reopen the sites under their own names.
PwC said the brand could also be saved in the coming days, but there are unlikely to be any Wilko stores left with all 398 scheduled to shut down in the coming weeks.
Job hopes: Poundland owner Pepco has agreed to buy 71 former Wilko stores following a deal last week that saw B&M agree to take on up to 51 stores
Edward Williams, joint administrator at PwC, said: ‘Alongside the previously announced agreement with B&M, we’re confident this sale will create a platform for future employment opportunities for people including current Wilko team members at up to 122 locations.’
He added: ‘We will continue to engage with other retailers around any interest in other Wilko sites and are confident of completing a sale of the brand and intellectual property within the coming days.’
It is understood that homeware chain The Range is in talks with PwC over buying the brand, meaning the Wilko name could continue online or within The Range stores.
Poundland said it would ‘move quickly’ and prioritise recruiting existing Wilko staff when it opens the 71 sites it is buying.
Poundland managing director Barry Williams said: ‘In the coming weeks we will work quickly with landlords so we can open these stores as Poundlands with the new ranges that have been pivotal to our recent development.
‘And once that process is complete, we will ensure a significant number of the Wilko colleagues will join our Poundland team.
‘We know how valued Wilko colleagues have been in scores of communities across the UK and we look forward to offering them opportunities to join our family.
‘We recognise the last few weeks have been difficult for them and we will move quickly to secure new consents from landlords so we can offer them the certainty they deserve.’
Among the stores Poundland is buying include some Wilko shut yesterday, including in Barking and Stafford.
Others due to close later this month, including Ellesmere Port and Southport, will also become Poundland shops. B&M has yet to reveal which stores it is buying. The GMB union last night expressed frustration and disappointment that staff had not been given more reassurances.
Staff do not know how long they could be out of a job, prolonging the anxiety for those affected when the homeware chain plunged into administration last month.
Danni Hewson at broker AJ Bell, said: ‘For thousands of Wilko workers news that Poundland is to snap up 71 stores will be of some comfort.
There’s no guarantee each worker walking out of one of those Wilko doors will walk back into the same store once it’s been rebranded, but it’s better news than they woke up with just this morning.’