Wilko shops set to return to the High Street before Christmas


Wilko will return to the High Street, with the brand's new owner opening up to five shops before Christmas.

The owner of the Range, which also bought Wilko's website after its collapse, will launch the first two Wilko shops in Plymouth and Exeter.

Its boss said that "it's clear that there's a huge love for Wilko".

Wilko collapsed in early August, leading to thousands of job losses and the closure of its 408 stores, many of them in traditional town centres.

CDS Superstores, which owns The Range, said former Wilko staff would be given priority in the recruitment process for the new shops.

When CDS bought the brand, it planned to stock some Wilko products in its existing stores, but it was not expected to open new shops under the Wilko name.

Its chief executive Alex Simpkin said: "The public reaction to the loss of Wilko stores was undeniable.

"That's why we've taken the decision to reintroduce Wilko back to many of the High Streets and communities that it used to so proudly serve."

While these High Street locations are convenient for shoppers without cars, since the pandemic there's been a shift to bigger retail parks and out-of-town options with more space.

This, as well as Wilko's struggle to keep up with competition from other discount retailers, including The Range, B&M and Poundland was partly blamed for its collapse.

Shoppers also cited problems finding the goods they wanted on the shelves after Wilko struggled to pay suppliers and at least one credit insurer withdrew its cover, which meant some companies paused deliveries to the stores.

Kate Hardcastle, consumer specialist at Insight with Passion, told the BBC that some customers also talked about the frustration of finding costly brands in Wilko shops and new styles and trends not coming through quickly enough.

But she said that CDS was "highly experienced" in value retail and data will give them a clear sense on what sells and "where the most Wilko love is".

CDS Superstores is aiming to opening up to five Wilko shops before Christmas - a key trading period for retailers- with two leases signed already for High Street locations in Devon.

They will be "concept" stores, followed by two locations in the South-East of England and one in the North of England, which are expected to be announced soon.

Ms Hardcastle added "if there is a time a store like Wilko will really succeed, it's on the months selling everything from gift wrap, decor DIY and cleaning goods", as people purchase presents and spruce up their homes in the run-up to Christmas.

For the first time, CDS is also planning to open Wilko-branded shops in Northern Ireland.

Wilko was founded in 1930 when JK Wilkinson opened his first store in Leicester. It expanded across the Midlands initially and by the 1990s became one of Britain's fastest-growing retailers.

But after the firm collapsed into administration, other competitors like B&M and Poundland snapped up dozens of shops to operate under their own names.

The owner of The Range agreed to buy the Wilko brand in a deal worth £5m, after a separate rescue bid for the wider business fell through.