The owner of HMV, Doug Putman, is reportedly close to finalizing a deal to rescue the majority of Wilko’s operations, potentially salvaging over 8,000 jobs at the struggling high street retailer. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), the administrators of Wilko, have been consulting with the chain’s major creditors on the terms of the agreement. The deal would see Putman acquire more than 300 of Wilko’s 400 stores, which could save between 8,000 and 9,000 jobs out of a total workforce of 12,500.
While the potential deal with Putman brings hope for thousands of employees, it may also mean that several thousand high street workers could still face job losses. The final outcome will depend on further deals with other retailers to acquire some of Wilko’s remaining stores. The situation remains uncertain until the deal is officially agreed upon.
Details of the deal structure proposed by Putman are still unclear. It has been reported that he has approached financiers, including Gordon Brothers, for backing. PwC has been actively seeking external investment for Wilko for months but the urgency increased when the company was appointed as administrator. Poundland’s parent company and B&M European Value Retail have expressed interest in purchasing 150 shops between them, but these deals would not proceed if Putman’s deal goes through. Another value retailer, The Range, has made an offer to buy Wilko’s brand and online operations. On the other hand, M2 Capital reportedly tabled an offer for the entire group; however, the GMB union has been informed that this bid has fallen through due to the bidder’s failure to provide the necessary evidence of financial capability.
PwC continues to assess bids and the GMB union remains hopeful that a viable buyer will emerge. However, there are no guarantees at this stage, and preparations for the worst-case scenario are being made. The union has emphasized the need to prepare for potential job losses while still holding out hope for a positive outcome for Wilko employees.
Wilko, established in 1930, sells discounted homeware and garden furniture. Like many high street retailers, it has been impacted by inflationary pressures and supply chain challenges. The company had been working on a company voluntary arrangement (CVA) to secure rent cuts at its stores, but ultimately failed to finalize the agreement. This, coupled with other difficulties, led to the appointment of administrators and the search for external investment.
The potential deal between Doug Putman and Wilko brings a glimmer of hope for the thousands of employees facing uncertain futures. The acquisition of over 300 stores could save a significant number of jobs, although the final outcome remains dependent on further deals and negotiations. It is a critical time for the high street, and Wilko’s situation highlights the challenges faced by many retailers in the current economic climate. Time will tell if the deal comes to fruition and provides the much-needed stability for both Wilko and its employees.