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Gloucestershire Business News

Wilko boss: "We ran out of cash"

The former chair of Wilko, Lisa Wilkinson, has been talking to MPs this morning as part of a Business and Trade select committee hearing – and revealing key insight into what went wrong to the business that left three shuttered premises across Gloucestershire.

Former Wilko workers also travelled to Westminster from across the country to hear Wilko bosses explain why the company collapsed and why they lost their jobs.

Cross-examining Ms Wilkinson, MP Liam Byrne said a long list of failures was identified, leaving the taxpayer on the hook for just over £40m in redundancy payments, a £50m hole in the pension scheme and creditors receiving only 4p in the pound.

Ms Wilkinson apologised for the failures and praised the hard work of staff, as well as "amazing suppliers and advisers" and "fantastic customers" who had supported the high-street name for 90 years.

She told MPs: "I am devastated that we have let each and every one of those people down, with the insolvency that Wilko has done."

When pressed my Mr Byrne for an apology, she added: "I am sorry that we are not there supporting all those people any more."

Explaining the context for the company's demise, Ms Wilkinson cited the cost of living crisis and reduced spending from customers as a key reason for difficulties in 2022.

She added that Liz Truss's mini budget sank a bid to move from a revolving credit facility to a secured lending arrangement: Wilko was in the process of negotiating a deal with Macquarie Bank, when the interest payments on that loan were hiked amid the mini-budget turmoil.

Adding the fact that revenues fell faster than costs could be cut, she said the brand lost the confidence of Lloyds, its bank, as well as credit insurers.

Nadine Houghton, GMB National Officer, said: "This will be the first time Wilko workers have heard from bosses about what went wrong and why the company was allowed to collapse.

"They've never received an apology or explanation from Lisa Wilkinson, despite many staff having dedicated decades of their lives to the business.

"Wilko chiefs should know that GMB members will be there listening; they expect the answers they have been denied for so long."

Speaking before the hearing today, HMV owner Doug Putman said a possible rescue of Wilko failed because "everyone just got a little bit greedy".

Mr Putman, who oversaw the recovery of HMV in the UK, came close to an agreement in September  which would have kept 200 of Wilko's 408 stores open, thereby avoiding the loss of more than 12,000 jobs. 

But with debts of £625m, Wilko collapsed into administration in August.

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