Wilko’s demise looks set to take the number of jobs lost in British High Street collapses to more than 100,000 since 2020.
Figures from the Centre of Retail Research (CRR) bring into sharp focus the scale of the crisis that has engulfed the industry since the pandemic.
Debenhams and Philip Green’s Arcadia empire – which included Topshop – were among high-profile casualties.
Up to 12,500 jobs could be lost for good at Wilko. Although rivals B&M and Poundland have purchased a total of 122 stores, staff are unsure of what will happen. The Range has bought Wilko’s brand and website – but saved just 36 jobs on the digital team.
All 398 Wilko stores will have closed by next month in the largest retail failure since Woolworths in 2008. CRR data shows that there have been more than 17,000 job losses at large to medium-sized retailers this year so far – including some already made at Wilko.
Demise: Up to 12,500 jobs could be lost for good at Wilko
These are actual jobs gone, rather than those lost before another firm intervenes and takes on the workers.
In 2022, some 6,732 jobs at retailers were lost while in 2021 this number was 24,179. In 2020 it was 53,364 as the side-effects of the pandemic set in.
This means that more than 101,000 people have lost their jobs since 2020, including Wilko staff that have either been laid off or are set to be.
Other big job losses have occurred at Arcadia (13,000) and Debenhams (18,500), both in 2020. In the past year, fashion brand Joules saw 133 staff laid off after it was bought by Next while 330 jobs went at fast-fashion brand Missguided.
Third parties have been keen to save the intellectual property and online brands of collapsed retailers but not their physical stores.
Susannah Streeter, at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: ‘Retailers have to have a razor-sharp focus on customers’ wants and size of their wallets.’ But she added that it is not just a case of physical retail losing out to e-commerce,
‘Primark has got the right product at the right price, it knows how to use social media to create that fear of missing out effect to get people into their stores,’ she said.
‘But we also can’t escape competition from online, stores have to be nimble.’
She said Next and Marks & Spencer have created a harmony between their online offerings and physical stores.