Billionaire retailer announces plans to resurrect Wilko brand

The billionaire owner of The Range has announced ambitious plans to resurrect the collapsed Wilko brand across the UK.

Chris Dawson, the Plymouth owner of The Range, bought the Wilko brand for a reported £5m after it collapsed into administration.

And he has now announced he plans to open 300 branches across the UK with three stores set to open before Christmas.

Dawson, who is one of the richest men in the South West, is reportedly working on deals which are ‘with the lawyers’ to get 50 shops reopened and he plans to open another 250 stores.

The first three Wilko stores will open in Plymouth and Exeter followed by a branch in Luton.

Chief executive of CDS Superstores, which owns The Range, Alex Simpkin announced the news on a visit to the Wilko store in Plymouth.

Mr Simpkin added that he does not know how long it will take to open the 300 stores.

Wilko said that a final two locations set to open this year will be announced in the coming weeks.

He added in a statement: “It’s clear that there’s a huge love for Wilko and we are proud to confirm we’ll be re-introducing the brand to high streets in Plymouth, Exeter and Luton in the coming weeks.

“We’re also glad to be bringing employment opportunities to these towns and for helping local families and communities have easy access to all the everyday home and garden items they need once again.

“This initial rollout is only the beginning for our plans for revitalising the Wilko brand on the nation’s high streets and retail parks, and we’ll be announcing further store launches and re-openings throughout 2024.”

The news comes just days after the ex-Wilko boss Lisa Wilkinson was forced to apologise MPs for the collapse of the business.

However she denied her greed helped to bankrupt the chain and she told MPs the business ran out of cash before it could be rescued when she was quizzed before a House of Commons committee.

12,000 people lost their jobs as part of the collapse of the 93-year-old chain, which also had a £50m shortfall in its pension fund.

The Wilkinson family are reported to have received £9m in dividends since over the last four years.

Wilkinson partly blamed the ‘mini-Budget’ of ex-prime minister Liz Truss for Wilko’s collapse.

She said:  “We were about to enter into secured lending arrangements with Macquarie when the 2022 mini-Budget happened.

“Literally we were in the midst of that, and at that point the interest terms on that loan were hiked massively and that became infeasible. So, that was a contributor.”