Wilko (retailer)

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Wilko Ltd.
Founded1930; 92 years ago
FounderJames Kemsey Wilkinson
HeadquartersWorksop, Nottinghamshire, England, UK
Number of locations
Increase 414 (2021)
Key people
Lisa Wilkinson (Director)
Andrew Moore (Chief Commercial Officer)
ProductsBasic groceries, toiletries, consumer goods, DIY, stationery, pet supplies
RevenueDecrease £1,283 million (2021)
Increase £5.06 million (2021)
Footnotes / references

Wilko Ltd., formerly Wilkinson Cash Stores (1930–1941) and Wilkinson Hardware Stores (1941–2014), is a British high-street retail chain which sells homewares and household goods. The company was founded in Leicester by James Kemsey Wilkinson in 1930, and remains in the ownership of the founding family.[4]

The founder's son, Tony Wilkinson, joined the company as a branch manager in 1960 and succeeded his father as chairman in 1972, retiring in June 2005. He was succeeded by his daughter, Lisa Wilkinson, and his niece, Karin Swann.[5] In 2014, Karin Swann sold her family's 50% holding in the business to Lisa Wilkinson.[2]

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. Wilko sells seasonal lines such as gardening products in the summer, as well as Christmas decorations and an expanded toys and games range from September to January.

The first own-label products sold under the Wilko brand was paint in 1973, and as of 2020 there are over 14,000 own brand products that account for over half of the annual sales.


2015 - present logo
2009 - 2014 logo

The first Wilkinson store was opened by James Kemsey and his fiancee Mary Cooper at 151 Charnwood Street, Leicester, in 1930, and a second store was opened in Wigston Magna, near Leicester, in 1932. A total of nine branches had been opened by 1939.[6]

The Beaconsfield store can be seen in the background in the film Brief Encounter (1945). By the end of the 1980s, the Wilkinson chain had a total of 78 stores, increasing to over 150 by the time of the founder's death, in 1997.[6]

Wilkinson opened its first Scottish outlet in Castle Douglas in January 2009, in a store formerly occupied by The Co-operative Group.[7] Stores were subsequently opened in Scotland that same year in Motherwell in July, in Irvine in November and in Clydebank in December. In 2010, the stores planned for Scotland to open were Hamilton, Kilmarnock, Greenock and Livingston.

Wilkinson has a trend of taking over redundant former stores rather than building new ones, particularly in the West Midlands; examples have included the former Kwik Save store in Great Bridge (May 2008),[8] the former Safeway store in Halesowen (November 2006)[9] 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 in 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 then, Wilkinson was one of Britain's fastest growing retailers.[citation needed]

In 2012, Wilkinson began rebranding its stores as Wilko, after its own brand products marketed under the Wilko name, and by 2014, most stores had been rebranded.[10][11][12]

One side of the Wilkinson family, Karin Swann, sold her 50 percent share of the business to the other side of the family in 2014, leaving Tony Wilkinson, his wife Christine and Lisa Wilkinson the sole owners of the company and Lisa Wilkinson the sole chairman. Swann wanted to pursue other business interests and the decision did not represent a falling-out of the family.[2]

In August 2017, Wilko began negotiations with GMB over their plan to remove over 4,000 positions. This was contrasted unfavourably with reports that Lisa Wilkinson had just received a £3m dividend.[13]

In March 2018, Wilko began to sell 285 of its own brand products in Dubai through ACE stores, marking the first time that Wilko has sold through another retailer.[14]

In June 2020, Warpaint London, a colour cosmetics company, signed a deal with Wilko to sell those items in UK shops.[15]

In January 2022, Wilko announced the closure of 15 stores with more expensive long leases.[16]

Warehouses and distribution[edit]

The company's first warehouse and offices opened in 1938 in existing premises in Syston, Charnwood. Wilko's first purpose-built warehouse on Brighton Road, Leicester, opened in 1937. In 1970, the head office and warehouse were relocated to Carlton-in-Lindrick, Nottinghamshire, and a 'high-bay' stacking system was installed. Wilko's current main distribution centre (DC1) opened in 1995 and is located in Manton Wood, Worksop, Nottinghamshire. At the time of opening, it had the fastest sorting system in the UK. A second distribution centre (DC2) was opened in Magor, south Wales in 2000.[17]

The company awarded a five-year logistics contract to Wincanton plc in March 2017, replacing Canute Haulage Group after 29 years.[18] In September 2019, the GMB union announced that its members would strike over a new weekend working proposal at the distribution centres. The strikes planned for four dates in October 2019 were called off after an improved offer was made by Wilko.[19]

Marketing and brand[edit]

Advertising is concentrated in the press, such as 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. In recent years Wilko's social media presence has also shown significant growth with a combined following of 250k followers. [20]

A revamped version of the brand was unveiled in December 2008. Designed by Jupiter Creative,[21] the brand was showcased in new format stores in Thornaby, Northallerton (which replaced a former Woolworths store), Sheffield, Leicester, Newton Aycliffe and Walton-on-Thames as well as the Castle Douglas, Motherwell and Clydebank stores in Scotland.

Financial performance[edit]

Turnover for the year ending February 2021 was in excess of £1.2 billion.[22]

Year ending Turnover (£'000) Operating Profit (£'000) Profit for year (£'000)
February 2022 tbc tbc tbc
February 2021[22] 1,283,251 5,063 4,481
February 2020[22] 1,428,491 2,069 3,752
February 2019[22] 1,508,690 (2,438) 13,926
February 2018[22] 1,619,147 8,227 (52,878)
February 2017[22] 1,517,763 17,994 16,046
February 2016[22] 1,464,475 23,638 15,910


  1. ^ Holmes, David (29 February 2016). "Wilko opens bigger Chester store on March 3". The Chester Chronicle. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Ruddick, Graham (2 August 2014). "Wilkinson family split after 84 years in retail". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  3. ^ "Annual Report 2020". Retrieved 11 March 2021.
  4. ^ Ruddick, Graham (7 July 2015). "Wilkinson family net £63m by selling stake in retail empire". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  5. ^ "Rich List 2013: No.=16 - Tony Wilkinson (£480m)". Birmingham Post. 3 June 2013. Retrieved 5 March 2016.
  6. ^ a b "Wilko | Corporate | Home". corporate.wilko.com. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  7. ^ Gillespie, Stuart (23 August 2017). "Jobs on the line at Castle Douglas store". Daily Record.
  8. ^ "Hundreds seek Wilkinson jobs". www.expressandstar.com.
  9. ^ "New Wilko's brings 60 jobs « Express & Star".
  10. ^ "Wilko — Annual Review 2012" (PDF). Wilko Corporate. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  11. ^ Holland, Tiffany (22 April 2014). "Wilkinson rebrands store estate to 'Wilko' matching new strapline". Retail Week. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  12. ^ Lanyon, Daniel (16 March 2013). "Wilkinson rebrand to 'Wilko' gathers pace". The Grocer. Retrieved 31 October 2014.
  13. ^ Ahmed, Murad (11 August 2017). "Wilko looks at cutting more than 4,000 jobs". Financial Times. Retrieved 12 August 2017.
  14. ^ "A bargain British brand is here in Dubai". DW. 4 March 2018. Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  15. ^ "Warpaint London products to be launched in Wilko stores". sharecast. 1 June 2020. Retrieved 22 June 2020.
  16. ^ "The complete list of the 15 Wilko stores set to close in 2022". ITV News. 10 January 2022. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  17. ^ "Wilko | Corporate | Home". corporate.wilko.com. Retrieved 17 February 2019.
  18. ^ "Wincanton wins five-year contract with wilko". Post and Parcel. 20 March 2017. Retrieved 22 March 2017.
  19. ^ "Wilko strike: Workers suspend action after 'last-ditch' offer". BBC News. 10 October 2019. Retrieved 10 October 2019.
  20. ^ "Wilko How we do things the wilko way" (PDF). Wilko Corporate. August 2016. Retrieved 27 January 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  21. ^ "The home of family value: a new-look brand unveiled for Wilkinson". Jupiter Creative. 12 December 2008. Retrieved 8 February 2009.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g "WILKO LIMITED overview - Find and update company information - GOV.UK". find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk. Retrieved 10 May 2022.

External links[edit]