Click here to return to the main site entry page
Click here to return to the previous page
Article and photos by Paul Wright, 2023
Wilko Closure 2023

sad to see
Sad to see.

It was always a steady, but reliable trickle of shoppers coming out of what was “Budgens”, with a couple of shopping bags to burden their load.

And they knew that they could get a taxi from the rank a few yards away in College Street in Rushden. On a good day there would have been a dozen or more taxis on the rank, and some spilling around the corner in to Alfred Street, this was referred to as the “stack-up rank”.

It was back in 1991 that we first saw Budgens open its doors for business.

In 2007 Budgens closed down in our town, and Wilkinson's took over the property. As a company Budgens are still trading elsewhere in the UK.

The Wilko company, which was founded in 1930 in Leicester, was still owned by the Wilkinson family. Mr. J.K. Wilkinson opened his first store in Leicester, and the company stepped into many high street gaps, left by the demise of Woolworths in late 2008.

Worried staff.
The old Woolworth’s floor space in our High Street was occupied for a short time by ‘Heron Foods” - that company was later taken over by the discounter “B & M”.

In late September 2023, Irthlingborough saw Heron move in to the former Tesco building, in the High street, adding to their tally of over 320 stores.

By 3rd August 2023 and Wilko had warned that it was on the brink of collapse, putting some 12, 000 jobs at risk.

The privately-owned company said it had filed a "notice of intention" to appoint administrators after failing to find enough emergency investment.

Wilko, which had 400 UK stores across the UK, was well-known for its affordable everyday items.

This was on the day that the Bank of England increased its interest rate to 5.25%, from 5%. The last time rates were at 5.25% was April 2008.

This latest move gave Wilko a slight breathing space of up to 10 working days to come up with a rescue deal.

Some of our more seasoned readers may painfully recall having a mortgage rate in 1981 as high as 16.63%?

full shelves
Going to be missed.

Signs promoting the 'Wilko Administration Sale' had been seen in shops across the UK, with the promise of thousands of reductions throughout the store.

The company entered administration on Thursday, August 10, joining the growing list of big-name retail brands that have disappeared from the nation's high streets.

On Friday 18th August, 2023, there were a few optimistic rumblings that some stores could be rescued, it was not clear which companies were bidding for Wilko at this time?

The chain launched an "everything must go" sale, but shelves would be replenished when any new stock arrived, if possible?

A sign of the modern age, Wilko shoppers were being warned not to be scammed by a raft of fake websites, that had been set up after the retailer fell into administration.

Several fake sites were supposedly offering hefty discounts on Wilko goods. I personally saw several sites trying to lure people in.

few customers
Busier times.

However, Wilko had stopped selling goods online, and was also no longer offering home delivery or click and collect services.

On Wednesday 23rd August, 2023, we saw the opening of the “Poundstretcher” store in our High Street.

That building was used earlier by the Co-op, and Argos. I am sure that many readers will remember the excellent service offered in the Co-op electrical department?

It was not unusual to make a purchase at certain times of the day, and you were asked if you wanted a delivery by that afternoon. Such a great shame that it had to disappear.

I did visit Wilko on Thursday afternoon of the 24th August, the place was looking rather depleted, and a member of staff did say, they would remain open for at least one more week. Looking back, no doubt the staff were getting fed up with such probing questions at that worrying time.

Moving on to the August Bank holiday weekend, and things were looking fairly promising.

A fresh rescue bid for Wilko did emerge as efforts to save the chain continued. There had been speculation that Wilko's rivals, such as B&M, Poundland, and The Range, all might be interested in the firm?

The Private equity firm M2 Capital confirmed it had made a £90m bid for the business, and had pledged to retain all employees' jobs for two years. Surely this was a dream scenario, if it could come to fruition?

The optimism was somewhat soured on Thursday 31st August, when a deal to buy Wilko, which claimed to guarantee jobs for the next two years, had fallen through after a bidder failed to file the paperwork in time.

Sadly hundreds of staff at Wilko looked like losing their jobs over the coming days. The billionaire owner of HMV was edging closer to a deal to buy Wilko, saving thousands of jobs and the majority of the shops.

Bargain hunting.

But alas, on Tuesday 5th September, a partial rescue came to light, when B&M agreed to buy dozens of shops from the collapsed Wilko, as talks over a bigger rescue deal hung in the balance.

B&M said it would take on up to 51 of Wilko's 400 stores in a deal worth £13m.

B&M was founded in 1978 with the first store opening by the sea in Blackpool. The nearest “B&M” is in Wellingborough, on Victoria Park, near to Tesco.

A massive 1 million square foot Distribution Centre in Bedford opened in January 2020, servicing the roll out of new B&M stores in the South of England.

Some Wilko store closures were announced on Wednesday 6th September, but none from our patch were on that list.

So our local staff still had the torment of not knowing which way things were going to end up?

signage - all gone
Sign of changes.
Monday 11th September, it was announced the Wilko name will disappear from UK streets as a rescue deal had fell through.

All of the 400 stores across the UK would close by early October, the GMB union announced.

The steady drip of any sign of recovery seemed to be painful, but there was the news that the Pepco Group, which owns Poundland in the UK, was wanting to convert up to 71 of the Wilko stores to the Poundland brand.

Thursday 14th September, The Range has agreed a deal to buy the Wilko brand after a rescue bid for the wider business fell through.

The agreement means it will own Wilko's website and could choose to stock and sell some of its products.

However, the deal will not prevent Wilko shops disappearing from our towns.

Wilko had seven stores in Northamptonshire, Gold Street in Northampton, Riverside, Weston Favell Centre, Wellingborough, Corby, Kettering, and of course Rushden. All would be closed down on the same day.

Weather conditions on that day were sunny, with a high of 17C, September 2023 was one of the warmest on record.

The UK - for the first time ever - had recorded temperatures above 30C for five consecutive days in September.

The sword of Damocles finally fell for Wilko in Rushden on Thursday 28th September, 2023.

Click here to return to the main index of features
Click here to return to the History index
Click here to e-mail us