Wilko bidders given two days to submit offers with 12,000 jobs at stake

Bidders interested in buying the collapsed budget retailer Wilko have been given two days to submit their offers as the future of its more than 12,000 employees remains in doubt.

The family-owned household and garden products retailer, which has about 400 outlets, called in administrators last Thursday after it failed to secure a rescue deal.

Administrators at PricewaterhouseCoopers are understood to have moved the deadline for bids forward by several days to the end of the working day on Wednesday, as first reported by Sky News, because Wilko risks running out of money while the sale process takes place.

Other large retailers and some financial groups are understood to be among the parties interested in buying some or all of the business, or the brand.

The Guardian understands that a range of suitors is interested in making an offer, but how much of the business, or its staff and stores, any winning bidder would want to take on is unclear.

Those previously named as interested parties include the Homebase owner, Hilco, a restructuring specialist that holds a large chunk of Wilko’s debt; the Bensons for Beds owner, Alteri; the Laura Ashley owner, Gordon Brothers; and the finance group OpCapita.

An “administration sale” is taking place at many of the chain’s stores, with large posters in the windows of some sites advertising “1000s of reductions throughout the store”.

It is understood that the sale is likely be extended to all Wilko stores in the coming days and that the retailer is trying to restock popular items.

Shoppers, however, have reported seeing empty shelves in parts of several stores on social media, even as the administration sale takes place.

Wilko has also faced anger from customers after its helplines closed down last week, leaving them chasing information about expected deliveries or refunds.

The company, which paused online deliveries last week, has in recent days seen its social media feeds fill with requests for information from frustrated shoppers, who had paid for but not received items ranging from furniture to toys.

Wilko, which was founded in 1930 when JK Wilkinson opened his first shop in Leicester, filled many gaps on high streets left when the Woolworths chain failed in late 2008.

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It is the largest retailer to collapse into administration since the convenience store business McColl’s, which employed about 16,000 people, just over a year ago. McColl’s was rescued by the supermarket Morrisons.

Wilko has struggled in the tough economic climate, and faced stiff competition from rival budget chains, including B&M, and online retailers such as Amazon.

Some suppliers paused or reduced deliveries, leaving customers complaining for several months of gaps on shelves.

Wilko borrowed £40m from Hilco last year, cut jobs, rejigged its leadership team and sold off a distribution centre as it faced a cash squeeze after falling to a loss.


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