OPINION: Retailers react to Wilko on brink of collapse

The potential collapse and closure of Wilko’s stores highlights opportunities and risks for convenience stores, according to local shop owners

OPINION convenience store owners react

The UK home retailer owns 400 stores across the UK filed for administration due to mounting debts, with 14 stores to close within weeks, according to the Daily Express.

Convenience store owners have considered whether they could change their ranges to support shoppers affected by the potential closures.

John Parkinson, Broadway Premier News, Llandudno, said there is “definitely scope [for opportunity] for anybody near a Wilko”.

“One of the things Wilko did was pick’n’mix. There’s a gain there potentially. But their main competitors are the chains, like Poundland and B&M. But it doesn’t mean we can’t make any extra as a result, there is potential to make a bit of headway.”

Parkinson’s nearest Wilko is 2.5 miles away.

Read more: Retail bosses invest in data, loyalty and value to keep cost-of-living crisis customers.

Shop owners also suggested other budget outlets on tight margins may be hard hit by the cost of living squeeze.

Shumaila Malik, owner of Withington Costcutter in Manchester, said: “I don’t think the affordability is viable anymore for these stores. They can’t keep the price that low. In a positive way for the convenience industry, there will be a boom in our shopping trade.”

There are four Wilko stores in Manchester, with the nearest to Malik’s store being a 20-minute drive away.  In a sign that convenience stores are not as vulnerable as chains such as Wilko, Malik shared that Costcutter has “already seen an increase in sales” since living costs started notably rising. 

“Our customers are still buying, but buying carefully, and using us more.”

Parkinson added that his shop has had a “good year”, having increased its turnover “quite substantially”.

Competitive pricing

These positive results may be a result of the independent sector being seen to have competitive pricing, according to the Julia Bywater, owner of Bywater News in Dudley.

“We have a lot of price-marked stuff that sells well. It’s sad really, because we like a bit of competition. And where’s it going to end? There might be an opportunity to get some items, but not all,” she said.

Despite the retail giant being largely considered as low-cost, Bywater pointed out the issues of being “cheap and cheerful” with numerous branches across the country.

“It goes to show, if you’re a big entity you can’t survive with your overheads at the prices they are and save people money. We’ve only got a couple of members of staff, but I realise if you had lots it’d bring your profit down all the time. It’s a vicious circle. The minimum wage goes up, so you pay more wages out, so it shrinks your profit margins. These are small profit margins that discounters are working on.”

Read more: Tough times call for grit and determination – James Bielby, chief executive, FWD.

Retail industry in ‘tricky time’

Wilko’s news reflects the current climate of the industry, according to some retailers.

Parkinson said: “The retail industry generally is in a really tricky time. Retail crime, price inflation – just general competition. My electric bill is going to double overnight. I’m only a smaller shop, I don’t know how a larger shop has coped.”

Malik added: “Wilko is supposed to be quite economical to shop at, but it’s showing that people still don’t have the money. It’s very sad times. It seems that Wilko is expensive for [consumers]. I think people are very careful in what they spend now. They are absolutely monitoring where money is going, and food and bills are taking up people’s income.”


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