All of Kent’s Wilko stores will close in a matter of weeks, it has now been confirmed.
It was initially hoped a handful might be saved after four were not included in the first announcement of closures, but a workers’ union has announced today (Monday) that every branch will shut by the start of October.
Today shoppers in Canterbury, which is one of 14 Kent locations set to lose their local Wilko, told KentOnline how disappointed they will be to see the household name vanish.
“I feel terrible, and actually very sad that it’s closing down,” said Erika Siddiqi, originally from Germany.
“It’s the closest store to my house and I’ve been coming here for 16 years ever since I moved to the UK. It’s a real shame.”
The GMB union, which represents more than 3,000 Wilko staff, has said all 400 stores, including its fourteen locations in Kent, will be shut by early October.
But today’s confirmation means redundancies look likely for all 12,500 people who work for the high-street chain nationwide.
Last month, shoppers in Ashford spoke of their dismay at the prospect of losing their nearest Wilko and the shelves had been stripped bare by the end of last week.
Plants, cleaning products, and household basics like toilet paper are among the goods that Kent residents had grown used to picking up at Wilko for a bargain.
“We like Wilko because we can buy things at good value for money,” explained Mary Follow, from River near Dover.
“It’s a good store, everybody recognises the name Wilko and there’s not really another store quite like it on the high street.
“We’re really sorry to see them go.”
Confirmation of the closing of all of Wilko’s stores comes after a last-ditch attempt by the owner of HMV to strike a rescue deal for the retailer collapsed.
GMB said that meant that remaining offers on the table are only likely to purchase a number of Wilko store properties, and are not expected to include workers.
It is hoped that some of the stores in the county may be among those purchased by B&M, after the rival discount chain confirmed it would be snapping up 51 stores in a move costing £13 million.
Nadine Houghton, GMB national officer, said: “This isn’t a tragedy without cause. Wilko should have thrived in a bargain retail sector that is otherwise strong, but it was run into the ground by the business owners.
“Money was siphoned out of the business for dividends, warnings about what needed to be done to save the business were not heeded and advice around what the business had to do to thrive was not listened to.
“No worker caused the downfall of Wilko. But they will be the ones who will suffer – all as the owners get off scot-free.