The chair of Wilko has said she is “devastated” for letting down letting down the collapsed retailer’s staff, suppliers, and customers.
Speaking to MPs on the Business and Trade Committee, Lisa Wilkinson – the granddaughter of the chain’s founder James – said: “I don’t know how to put into words how sad I am that we let down all our customers, all our team members, our suppliers, our advisers genuinely, I don’t know what you want me to say.”
“Well, sorry was the one word I was looking for”, interjected Liam Byrne, the committee’s chair.
Wilkinson replied: “You can have the word sorry, of course I’m sorry, if you wish me to say the word sorry – I thought devastated covered it. I apologise, I wasn’t trying to be clever.”
Wilkinson is currently under fire from MPs after it was revealed that £77m was paid in dividends in the run up to Wilko’s collapse. This included £3m in dividends paid to trusts related to the founding family, although Lisa Wilkinson said she had not personally benefitted.
The chain collapsed in August which saw some 12,000 members of staff at risk of losing their jobs. Poundland’s owner then took over the leases of 71 Wilko stores and rebranded them, whilst B&M also took control of over 50 shops.
CDS Superstores, which owns The Range, acquired Wilko’s name and website and will be opening five Wilko stores during the festive period.
The Wilko chair also pointed to the fallout following Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng’s mini budget as one of the reasons the retailer fell into administration. She said that this had led to a higher interest rate for a deal with Australian firm and lender Macquarie which eventually fell through.
She also cited a decline in high street retail and Wilko’s decision to stay open during the pandemic as contributing factors.
It was recently revealed that former Wilko staff have received £42m from the taxpayer.
Nadine Houghton, GMB national officer, said last week: “The hard truth is that taxpayers are subsidising more than a decade of mismanagement at Wilko that condemned the much-loved chain to failure.
“Answers are long overdue, and Wilko’s former management must account for their record when they face MPs”.