Retail boss reveals plans to re-open 50 Wilko branches of the high street chain

Wilko could be making a comeback as a retail boss has revealed plans to reopen nearly 300 branches of the high street chain across the UK – with three set to reopen before Christmas.

Billionaire founder of The Range Chris Dawson is reportedly working on deals which are ‘with the lawyers’ to get 50 shops reopened and he plans to expand further.

Wilko branding and intellectual property was acquired by CDS Superstores (which trades as The Range) for a reported £5million after it went bust in August this year – forcing the closure of more than 400 stores and leaving thousands out of a job.

The first three Wilko stores will open in early December in Plymouth and Exeter, both in Devon, and Luton, Bedfordshire the retail firm revealed.

Visiting the Plymouth branch last week ahead of its December 1 opening date, chief executive Alex Simpkin told PlymouthLive there were ‘about 50 Wilkos opening’ as well as the three with scheduled dates.

He said those were ‘with the lawyers’ before adding that 300 stores will eventually be opened ‘more or less where there were, in most cases, ex-Wilko stores’.

Where will the new Wilko shops open and when?

Plymouth, Devon

Armada Centre
Opening date: December 1

Exeter, Devon

Guildhall Shopping Centre
Opening date: December 1

Luton, Bedfordshire

Arndale Centre
Opening date: December 8

Mr Simpkin added that he does not know how long it will take.

Poundland owners Pepco agreed to buy 71 Wilko sites, with 64 former stores pledged to reopen under the Poundland name by the end of the year. B&M also had the opportunity to buy as many as 51 ex-Wilko stores.

This comes after he ex-Wilko boss Lisa Wilkinson yesterday denied her greed bankrupted the much-loved chain, as she told MPs it ‘ran out of cash’ before it could be salvaged.

Ms Wilkinson, the granddaughter of the firm’s founder JK Wilkinson, said she was ‘devastated’ by the demise of the business as she was quizzed by a House of Commons committee.

She offered an apology to the 12,000 people who lost their jobs as part of the collapse of the 93-year-old chain, which also left a £50million shortfall in its pension fund.

‘I don’t know how to put into words how sad I am that we have let down all our team members, all our customers, our suppliers, and our advisers,’ Ms Wilkinson told MPs.

Her grilling by the Commons’ Business and Trade Committee followed severe criticism of Wilko bosses for shelling out £77million to its owners and former shareholders in the decade before its collapse.

The Wilkinson family are reported to have received £9million in dividends since 2019.

She partly blamed the ‘mini-Budget’ of ex-prime minister Liz Truss in September last year, which was accompanied by financial markets meltdown, for Wilko’s collapse.

Ms Wilkinson said the company was in the middle of negotiating a new loan arrangement when interest rates began to soar.

‘We were about to enter into secured lending arrangements with Macquarie when the 2022 mini-Budget happened,’ she said.

‘Literally we were in the midst of that, and at that point the interest terms on that loan were hiked massively and that became infeasible. So, that was a contributor.’