Wilko (retailer)

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Wilko Retail
Industry Retail
Founded 1930
Headquarters Worksop, United Kingdom
Number of locations
372 (2013)
Key people
Karin Swann (Joint Chairwoman)
Lisa Wilkinson (Joint Chairwoman)
Sean Toal (Chief Operating Officer)[1]
Products Basic groceries, consumer goods, DIY, stationery, pets
Revenue Decrease £1,501 million (2014)[2]
Increase £67 million (2014)
Owner Tony and Lisa Wilkinson (100%)
Number of employees
23,000 (2014)
Website www.wilko.com

Wilko Retail (formerly Wilkinson Hardware Stores) is a British high-street chain with over 376 stores, selling primarily homewares and household goods.

Founded in 1930, as Wilkinson Cash Stores by James Kemsey Wilkinson, the company has remained largely in the hands of the founding family. When Tony Wilkinson, the son of the founder, retired as chairman after 45 years in June 2005, he was replaced by his niece, Karin Swann, and his daughter, Lisa Wilkinson.

Product range[edit]

The Wilko product range concentrates on household essentials, including homewares, textiles, DIY, cleaning products, health and beauty lines, stationery, confectionery, pet products and kitchen and bathroom goods. A large proportion of the range is made up of own-label products sold under the Wilko brand, although like other retailers Wilko has started to use private label brands.

Seasonal ranges are introduced on a rotational basis, with garden tools and plants in summer and Christmas decorations from September to January. Toys are now a permanent addition to the seasonal line, however, the company does increase the number of toys during the Christmas period.

During 2007, the company introduced a grocery range, and a "food to go" offering in some larger stores. In November 2007, the company opened its first convenience style store.

Stores and distribution[edit]

A high-street Wilko store, using the 2009–2014 logo (2010)
A high-street Wilko store, using the 1977–2009 logo (2007)

The first Wilkinson store was opened in Leicester in 1930, increasing to a total of nine branches by 1940; the Beaconsfield store can be seen in the background in the 1945 film Brief Encounter. By the end of the 1980s Wilkinson had a total of 78 stores, increasing to over 150 by the time of the founder's death in 1997.[3]

Wilkinson opened their first Scottish outlet in Castle Douglas on 23 January 2009, in a store formerly occupied by The Co-operative Group.[4] Stores were subsequently opened in Scotland that same year in Motherwell on 17 July, in Irvine in November and in Clydebank on 2 December. During 2010, the latest stores planned for Scotland set to open are Hamilton, Kilmarnock, Greenock and Livingston.

By October 2009, Wilkinson had a total of 359 stores nationwide, with stores averaging in excess of 17,000 sq ft (1,600 m2), and employed over 22,000 people. By June 2012, they had 370 stores with further concept stores, planned initially in Crawley. The expansion plan, originally for 500 stores, was reduced owing to the problems with the United Kingdom economy.

The company has two distribution centres:

D.C.1 & Head Office - Now known as SC1 (Service Centre One)

Called JK House (including a store for current employees only) it is based in Manton Wood, Worksop, Nottinghamshire. Construction began in September 1993. Ballast Nedam Construction - a Dutch construction company was chosen to construct the steel framed large distribution centre which cost approx £16.5 million to construct.

When opened on 12 December 1994, it had the fastest sorting system in the United Kingdom. The DC1 is situated just south east of the former Manton Colliery which closed in 1994. The DC1 as of 2012 employs approximately 1,800 employees. The DC1 has its own fuelling station for the company’s fleet of vehicles: Canute Lorries, shunters and other HGV's which operate with in the DC. The DC1 is equipped with several different types of forklift trucks which operate throughout the distribution centre. As of 2013 the DC1 (distribution centre one) site as been renamed to; SC1 (service centre one)

  • D.C.2 - based in Magor, South Wales Now known as SC2 (Service Centre Two)

Wilkinson has a trend of taking over redundant former stores rather than building new ones, particularly in the West Midlands; notable examples include the former Kwik Save store in Great Bridge (May 2008),[5] the former Safeway store in Halesowen (November 2006)[6] and the former Marks & Spencer store in Dudley (July 1991). The opening of a store in Dudley was an example of a trend of the retailer to take over large units in town centres left vacant by the relocation of big retail names to out of town locations, as Marks & Spencer had closed its Dudley store during 1990 in favour of a new store at the nearby Merry Hill Shopping Centre.

The Dudley store was so successful, that a £250,000 expansion to the upper level of the building (initially only the ground floor was used) was completed three years after its opening. By this stage, Wilkinson was one of Britain's fastest growing retailers.[7]

In 2012, Wilkinson began rebranding its stores as Wilko, its long term nickname, and by 2014, most stores were rebranded.[8][9][10]


The former Wilkinson logo, from 1978–2009. A shortened version, "Wilko", was used on own brand merchandise.
The modernised Wilkinson logo, used from 2009–2014, although many stores retained the original logo, until the Wilko rebrand

Wilkinson's advertising is concentrated in the press, such as through inserts included with local newspapers. Advertising emphasises value for money, with in-store promotion encouraging customers to purchase more than one item when they visit the store.

A revamped version of the Wilkinson brand was unveiled in December 2008. Designed by Jupiter Creative,[11] the brand was showcased in new format stores in Thornaby, Northallerton, (which replaced a former Woolworths store), Sheffield, Leicester, Newton Aycliffe & Walton-on-Thames, as well as the Castle Douglas, Motherwell & Clydebank stores in Scotland.

Elements of the new brand have since been phased in more widely, including point-of-sale materials, carrier bags and a relaunched website. Stores in Nottingham and Retford have also recently been converted to the new One Touch format.


Wilkinson launched a saving stamp scheme, across all of its stores.[when?] Although not an unusual practice in the retail market, it was unique to Wilkinson because it had never launched any kind of loyalty or saving incentives in the past, preferring to concentrate on its ‘Everytime’ value promise. This is no longer available in Wilkinson stores, as it was replaced with saver cards.[citation needed]

Employees of the company are offered a 13% discount at all Wilko stores after four weeks’ service, as well as the same discount on products available on the website.[citation needed] Wilkinson stores donate 1% of their annual profits to charitable causes.[citation needed]

Financial success[edit]

Turnover for the year ending February 2013 was in excess of £1.5B.[2]

Year ending Turnover (£m) Trading profit (£m) Operating profit (£m)
1 February 2013[2] 1,530 27.6 25.3
2 February 2012[2] 1,565 23.0 19.3
28 January 2011[12] 1,559 57.7 60.8
29 January 2010[13] 1,556 65.4 62.9
31 January 2009[13][14] 1,449 32.2 31.6
1 February 2008[15] 1,364 88 50.3
2 February 2007[16][17] 1,246 85 48.4
27 January 2006[18] 1,135 25.7
1 January 2005[19] 1,116 54.3
1 January 2004[20] 1,045 56.5
31 January 2003[21] 922 44.7
2 February 2002[22] 817 36.6


Wilkinson products are also supplied to Manx retailer Shoprite.


  1. ^ "Co-operative Group food COO Sean Toal to join Wilkinson". TheGrocer.co.uk. Retrieved 21 October 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d Wilkinson Annual Report 2012
  3. ^ http://corporate.wilko.com/stories/ourhistory.php
  4. ^ Wilkinson to open first store in Scotland | News | Retail Week
  5. ^ Hundreds seek Wilkinson jobs « Express & Star
  6. ^ New Wilko's brings 60 jobs « Express & Star
  7. ^ Wilkinson Hardware Stores Ltd. - Company Profile, Information, Business Description, History, Background Information on Wilkinson Hardware Stores Ltd
  8. ^ "Wilko - Annual Review 2012" (PDF). Wilko Corporate. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  9. ^ Holland, Tiffany (22 April 2014). "Wilkinson rebrands store estate to 'Wilko' matching new strapline". Retail Week. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  10. ^ Lanyon, Daniel (16 March 2013). "Wilkinson rebrand to 'Wilko' gathers pace". The Grocer. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  11. ^ "The home of family value: a new-look brand unveiled for Wilkinson". Jupiter Creative. 12 December 2008. Retrieved 8 February 2009. 
  12. ^ Wilkinson Annual Report 2011
  13. ^ a b Wilkinson Annual Report 2010
  14. ^ "Wilkinson Retail Analysis 2009". IGD. 4 September 2009. Retrieved 5 April 2010. 
  15. ^ "Wilkinson reports robust sales growth". IGD Retail Analysis. 5 August 2008. Retrieved 27 December 2008. 
  16. ^ "Wilkinson reveals strong profit growth". IGD. 29 June 2007. Retrieved 5 April 2010. 
  17. ^ "FastTrack 100 - 2007". Retrieved 21 October 2014. 
  18. ^ FastTrack 100 - 2006
  19. ^ FastTrack 100 - 2005
  20. ^ FastTrack 100 - 2004
  21. ^ FastTrack 100 - 2003
  22. ^ FastTrack 100 - 2002

External links[edit]