More than 50 Wilko stores are to shut, with more than 1,300 jobs being lost, as administrators continue to hold talks over a deal that would save most of the stricken retailer’s outlets and employees.
PwC confirmed that 52 Wilko stores will be closed with the loss of 1,016 jobs.
Affected staff will be told by 10am on Wednesday, with 24 of the stores due to close on 12 September and the remainder of those earmarked for closure to be shut two days later.
Employees will be expected to keep working for two days after their store closes.
PwC said it would publish on Wednesday the locations of the stores earmarked for closure.
Another 299 jobs are to go at Wilko’s two big warehouses in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, and Newport, Wales. There will be a further 17 redundancies in its support centre among staff working in digital operations.
“In the absence of viable offers for the whole business, very sadly store closures and redundancies of team members from those stores are now necessary,” said Edward Williams, joint administrator at PwC.
“We know this has been a deeply unsettling time for everyone concerned and would like to express our gratitude to all Wilko team members for the dedication and support they have continued to give the business in the most trying of circumstances.”
The GMB union, which blamed “years of mismanagement” for the dire straits that the 408-store chain finds itself in, said that a £13m deal struck by discount retailer B&M to save 51 properties earlier on Tuesday would result in more redundancies.
“Any such bid would appear to be for store premises only,” said GMB, in an update on Tuesday.
“This would mean that while new brands may open on site, workers would not transfer to these. Instead, they would be made redundant by the administrators prior to any store closure.
“We are making inquiries about the possibility of current staff being given preferential treatment in applying for any jobs that may appear.”
PwC is continuing talks with Doug Putman, who engineered a turnaround of HMV in the UK and owns Toys R Us in Canada and aims to save as many as 300 of Wilko’s stores, throwing a lifeline to most of its 12,000-plus staff.
“PwC confirmed that they are continuing to work with one bidder who has made an offer for a significant part of the business,” GMB said.
“While there remains a possibility that this fails to deliver, we are working hard and doing everything we can to help it over the line.”
The deal by Putnam has been left in the balance after some big suppliers, including Unilever and Procter & Gamble, which supply many staple household cleaning and food products, said they want their debts repaid now if they are to continue supplying Wilko stores.
The talks have also raised concerns that some suppliers, who have cancelled shipments to Wilko stores as the chain went into administration last month, would not be able to ship products for another six weeks.
“We expect future developments this week and will be meeting with PwC over the next couple of days to discuss progress,” said GMB.
Administrators at PwC are also in talks with other potential suitors including Poundland, Home Bargains and The Range about saving some of Wilko’s stores.
As the administrator, PwC has an obligation to try to protect the interests of creditors including Hilco, which is owed £40m.
“We continue to explore all interest in the remainder of the business and are actively working with potential buyers,” said PwC.