The future of Wilko remains in limbo this week as administrators race to secure a rescue deal for the stricken retailer.
The value retail chain collapsed into administration earlier this month – putting 12,500 jobs on the line – after teetering on the brink of collapse for several months.
Although adminstrator PwC had revealed last week that Wilko stores would close and staff would be made redundant as there was “no prospect that the majority of the business will be saved”, a couple of last-minute bids have given fresh hope for employees and shoppers alike.
With a decision on the retailer’s future expected to be announced in the coming days, Retail Gazette rounds up the firms in the running to snap up parts or all of Wilko.
Private equity firm M2 Capital is understood to have made a £90m bid for Wilko, with the offer thought to preserve the value retailer’s entire operations, including its 400 stores.
Its proposal would also guarantee jobs for the retailer’s 12,500 employees over a two-year period, The Guardian reported.
The Anglo-Canadian restructuring specialist, headed by a former PwC mergers and acquisitions expert in Russian metals and mining, currently owns a string of luxury hotels under the Como brand.
If successful, Wilko would be the firm’s first dip into the retail sector.
HMV owner Doug Putman
HMV owner Doug Putman has also made a last-minute swoop to stop the much-loved retailer from disappearing from the British high street.
The Canadian tycoon, who also owns chains including Toys R’Us Canada and Sunrise Records, is understood to have submitted an improved offer on Friday that would see him take on up to 350 Wilko stores, up from his original bid of retaining 200 outlets.
According to Sky News, Putman has approached several debt providers including Gordon Brothers and Hilco to help finance his offer. However, the publication raised doubts about the viability of his offer with city sources predicting it could be rejected.
This would not be the first time the businessman has snapped up a retailer in administration, having acquired HMV in 2019 and returning it to profit last year.
Wilko rival The Range is understood to be in pole position to snap up the discount retailer’s brand and online operations if the rescue bids by Putman and M2 Capital fail.
Since 2015, The Range is among the throng of value rivals that have overtaken Wilko’s non-food market share, according to GlobalData.
The firm, founded in 1989 by Plymouth-based tycoon Chris Dawson, has grown to become one of the most successful retailers on the high street.
The Range now operates more than 200 stores, which unlike Wilko shops are based in out-of-town retail parks, and is in expansion mode.
The retailer is currently developing what it claims is the largest distribution centre built in the UK in the past five years, which will help fuel its ambitious growth strategy.
Former market trader Dawson, who drives a Rolls Royce with the number plate DE11 BOY, aims to open a further 100 The Range stores and has set its sights on snapping up stores left empty by John Lewis and Debenhams.
Poundland is looking to acquire up to 100 Wilko stores.
The retailer, like Wilko, operates in town centre locations, which make its stores a good fit.
Although Wilko traditionally operates larger stores than Poundland, the retailer has been expanding its range of late, including adding a wider range of food to its shops.
The Wilko store acquisition could help accelerate this strategy.
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B&M is another retailer considering acquiring parts of Wilko.
According to reports, the variety store retailer is looking to snap up between 40 and 50 stores.
Wilko rival B&M has been incredibly successful over the past decade and has grown to more than 700 stores and has plans in place to open another 30 shops by the end of 2023.
The retailer trades from retail parks so taking on Wilko stores represents a departure – and potentially a new growth avenue – for B&M.
Analysts from stockbroker Numis revealed the purchase would boost the size of B&M’s UK store portfolios by 6%.
The Original Factory Shop
TOFS, previously called The Original Factory Shop, is understood to have lodged a bid for 10 Wilko sites, according to Sky News.
The retailer, which is owned by private equity firm Duke Street, has also vowed to interview Wilko staff at risk of redundancy for roles across its business.
Wilko is not the only collapsed retailer that TOFS has looked to for new stores. It also snapped up some sites from M&Co, which plunged into administration late last year.
TOFS will open 16 new stores in the next three months, creating up to 160 jobs, as it looks to “assert its position as the UK’s leading community and value, brand-led retailer”.
Home Bargains has also expressed interest in Wilko stores.
It is not known how many stores Home Bargains, the value chain established in Liverpool in 1976, wants to take.
However, as the retailer trades from out-of-town retail parks, it is unlikely to acquire a large tranche of stores.