Wilko gets funding lifeline, management shake-up
Wilko has landed a £40 million lifeline from restructuring specialist Hilco as the struggling UK discount general merchandise retailer makes major changes to its leadership team.
The business, which has a strong beauty products line-up, is facing a cash squeeze after falling to a loss and struggling to pay suppliers.
And that has led to its chair Lisa Wilkinson, a member of the family that controls the 413-store chain, stepping down. She’s to be replaced by the former Bensons for Beds chair Chris Howell.
Another former Bensons executive, Mark Jackson, was appointed chief executive before Christmas, the group’s third CEO in as many years. That means MD Alison Hands will leave the company this month, just 18 months after taking up the role.
Wilko has further strengthened its board by appointing Natasja Laheij as a non-executive director and chairwoman of its audit and risk committee. Laheij was previously a senior financial professional at Amazon and is a senior finance director at Google.
Wilkinson said the company was making “necessary changes to restore confidence and safeguard the future of the business.
“That includes making sure we have the right leadership in place – one aligned team with the right expertise to deliver the retail experience our customers are demanding of us today.”
The two-year credit facility with Hilco comes after Wilko paid down some of its debts by selling and leasing back its distribution centre in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, for initial proceeds of £48 million.
Wilko warned in its annual accounts, published in November, that it might have to seek additional financing if it suffered a “severe but plausible” scenario in which it saw a significant reduction in the amount of goods it was selling.
The group, which employs 16,000 staff, recorded a £36.8 million pre-tax loss in the year to the end of January 2022 from a £2.5 million profit a year before, after a near-3% fall in sales to £1.3 billion.
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