Wilko stores in Kent avoid the axe - but question mark hangs over Orpington branch


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Wilko says its Kent stores are safe despite revealing a list today of 15 branches it plans to axe.

The retailer, which has branches in Ashford, Canterbury, Thanet, Medway, Maidstone, Sittingbourne, Gravesend and Tunbridge Wells, says up to 15 stores nationwide will potentially close before January 2023.

Wilko at Westwood Cross, Thanet. Picture: Google Street View
Wilko at Westwood Cross, Thanet. Picture: Google Street View

Also under threat, according to the GMB union, is the Wilko store at the Walnuts Shopping Centre in Orpington - although a spokesman for the firm was unable to confirm if it was at risk.

But speaking to KOL today, Wilko said there were "no further plans" to close other stores as it readjusts its branches in the light of our changing shopping habits.

The firm said the stores affected will close as leases end and favourable terms cannot be agreed, adding it will not affect its new openings or stores relocation programme.

It also added the move will "ensure future investments are only made in great locations with suitable terms".

Wilko CEO, Jerome Saint-Marc, said: “Our history is steeped in serving our customers and communities going back to 1930 but there’s no denying the way people shop with us and where they want to shop with us is changing.

Wilko in Gillingham - all the retailer's Kent stores have avoided the closure threat announced today
Wilko in Gillingham - all the retailer's Kent stores have avoided the closure threat announced today

"As a business we’re evolving and this includes working with landlords for more favourable terms, as well as looking at locations and store formats. We’ll continue to pull together to make our business better to secure the future of over 16,000 team members.

“We’ll be doing everything we can to support our affected team members who will be offered any available positions in nearby stores. We apologise to those communities where stores are closing but will continue to offer them everything they need in nearby stores or online.”

The GMB says 330 jobs on the line as a result. The Orpington store employs 23 staff.

Roger Jenkins, GMB national officer, said: "These closures are devastating for Wilko workers and the communities who use them.

“It’s yet another nail in the high street’s coffin and GMB calls on councils and landlords to review commercial leases and offer lower rents.

“Empty high streets and shopping centres are in no one’s interest and but with 400 shops a week closing, this is inevitable - unless the costs of premises can be reduced."

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