Boss of Worksop-based Wilko apologises for company 'collapse' which caused 12,500 job losses.

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The chair of collapsed Worksop-based Wilko has said she is "devastated" for letting down workers, suppliers and customers of the retailer.

Lisa Wilkinson, the granddaughter of the company’s founder,

old MPs that "we have let each and every one of those people down with the insolvency that Wilko has done".

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Wilko collapsed in August leaving 12,500 workers out of those – with around 2,000 roles going at the company’s contact centre and distribution hub in Worksop.

Worksop's former Wilko store. Photo: GoogleWorksop's former Wilko store. Photo: Google
Worksop's former Wilko store. Photo: Google

Jobs also went with the closure of the Wilko stored in Worksop and Retford.

Ms Wilkinson also said the fallout from last year's mini budget was one of the factors behind the retailer's demise.

The former chair of Wilko was being questioned by MPs on the Business and Trade Committee about the failure of the business that her grandfather started 93 years ago.

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"I don't know how to put into words how sad I am that we have let down all our customers, all our team members, our suppliers, our advisers genuinely, " she said.

"You can have the word sorry, of course I'm sorry, if you wish me to say the word sorry. I apologise, I wasn't trying to be clever."

Quizzed over why Wilko collapsed, Ms Wilkinson pointed to a number of reasons including last year's mini budget which she claimed significantly increased the interest rate on a loan with Australia's Macquarie that Wilko was trying to secure.

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

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"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."

Wilko's former chief executive Mark Jackson, who was appointed during Christmas 2022, told MPs at the same hearing he believed that one of the reasons the company failed was because it stayed open during Covid.

The retailer had more than £100m in cash at the beginning of 2021. Wilko was grappling with a number of problems but Mr Jackson said that cash began to run down because it continued to pay workers and paid landlords in full.

"I would not have stayed open," he said. "I would have taken advantage and protected the business on the furlough scheme and the rents like 90 per cent of other retailers."

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Commenting on why Wilko continued to trade during Covid lockdowns, Ms Wilkinson said: "The history of Wilko is that it has always stayed open. It stayed open throughout World War Two.

"We were an essential retailer. We debated at great length as a board whether we should stay open."

A year later in January 2022, Wilko's cash levels had fallen to £57.8m and it reported a £38m pre-tax loss compared to a previous profit. The Wilkinson family also paid themselves a dividend of £3m.

Ms Wilkinson said that she had personally not benefitted from the payments and they were made to a company which is controlled by series of family trusts.

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Earlier on Tuesday, the owner of HMV detailed how he wanted to rescue most of Wilko's 400 shops but "greed" stood in his way.

Canadian billionaire Doug Putman said firms, including some landlords, had been "super inflexible" and made a deal "literally impossible".