Wilkos Closes: Whose to Blame?

It’s gone, a day early. More of a whimper than a bang as the management decided that their was not enough stock in the shop so shut up early. Wilkos, over and out.

Since it’s closure was first announced just before Christmas 2011, I’ve been trying to find out exactly why something so popular and so successful can disappear from Beeston, and I think that now, after more meetings and emails than I care to remember, I have a clear narrative on exactly what caused this. Front and centre, Wilkinsons. Your sheer avarice has damaged this town. Their are other culprits, as I will show, but Wilkos Head Office should be hanging their heads in shame. While pocketing a huge wodge of what is our money.

When we first launched the petition to keep Wilkos in Beeston, I was asked live on air by Hannah Meredith from BBC Radio Nottingham why I was campaigning for a chain store. I explained that it did look odd, but I was not supporting Wilkinsons the business, but Wilkinsons the store in Beeston. Just as you may think little of Royal Mail but still find your local Post Office invaluable, Wilkos was a resource in this town. Employing 56 people, mostly Beestonians, it provided a cheap and cheerful one-stop shop for all non-food needs. It attracted people to Beeston in droves, enjoying the greatest footfall per square foot than any other retailer.

My initial belief while campaigning for relocation was that Henry Boot Developers were to blame. I assumed that there idea of what Beeston Square should look like was out of kilter to what was actually needed: Wilkos was seen as too ‘low-end’ for them. I now know this is flawed, and Wilkinson’s have been very much a priority in the plans. They have had first refusal on a huge new premise on the redeveloped Square for some time, a floorspace that would comfortably house five mid-size retailers. This would be central to the Square, so did Wilkos jump at the chance? Nope.

While issuing hollow press statements ‘We remain committed to Beeston, etc’ they played a game of brinksmanship, the repercussions are another closed shop, half the employees on the scrap heap, the other half relocated to other stores. Rumour has it that they first demanded £40 million compensation for closure, yet the actual figure agreed was significantly smaller than this. But to lever more money, they refused to sign up to a new shop, as this would have had an adverse effect on the package.

So while both the council, who unanimously supported the campaign to keep Wilkos in Beeston, and Henry Boot, who held out for ages while other retailers were expressing interest in the new space, bent over backwards to reflect the needs of Beestonians, Wilkos prevaricated. It’s subject to ‘commercial confidentiality’ (a phrase I grew increasingly used to/sick of whenever I tried to get an answer from various parties) but if Henry Boot’s patience runs out, then Wilkos may lose the chance soon to take the space. Those jobs will never return.

Henry Boot will thus be seen as the Bad Guys, along with the council for allowing the tram. Indeed, the knee-jerk reaction I noticed on the streets while petitioning, and in a great deal of commenters on this blog blame the tram. Wilkos are happy to use this as a smokescreen. Poor us! Forced out of Beeston because of the tram passing through our premises. However, they’ve known that WAY before December the train was a certainty. The failure to relocate is the fault of Wilkos management. I stand by that with certainty.

Yes, the Council’s attitude to the Square leaves lots to be desired: why they have stuck another developer to consult on the plans to the tune of hundreds of thousands of pounds, consultants who know a good deal when they see it so retain this cash pipeline by shouting down all plans submitted by Henry Boot. This is not joined up thinking. The Council and Henry Boot need desperately to start working together and get the work done. Henry Boot need to provide Beestonians with a much clearer vision of what they intend for Beeston: and to be fair, recently they have been doing this.

Because when the situation becomes so antagonistic, it becomes open for exploitation, hences Wilkos strategic fleecing of funds.

I am also not as naïve as to think that Wilkinsons should be ran as a charity. They are a business as much as Tesco, Sainsburys and Waitrose (who will also be setting up shop in the Square soonish). Why should we expect anything different?

Because Wilkos has a reputation as a good, ethical employer; who also give a large donation to a selected charity each year. This reputation has always been strong in the community. Have they squandered this goodwill? Does corporate responsibility not fit their business model these days? Treating their staff as they have done: keeping them poorly informed, offering bare minimum redundancy packages (if any), demoting staff who did stay on, then freezing their wages for three years, seems to suggest they are happy to trash their image for the sake of a few quid.

Lets not forget that this reputation has been at least partly responsible for Wilkos recent massive rise in sales and profits. While this has been reflected in the remuneration of the directors, the staff have been treated like crap.

So whats the future? For the staff, bleak. For the store coming back to Beeston? That depends on the patience of Henry Boot and the willingness of Wilkinson’s Head Office to think of something other than sheer profit.

25 thoughts on “Wilkos Closes: Whose to Blame?

  1. Joan Wand says:

    Not surprising and why I refused to sign the petition. Sadly, a lot of Beeston people have now been stirred up against the tram. Some of the comments left on the wall in Wilkos and the antagonism shown in these comments towards the tram and even towards tram passengers verged on the extreme. When, while looking at these comments, I voiced the opinion that Beeston needed both a Wilkos AND the tram I was rounded on by an angry crowd and had to leave the shop in a hurry.

  2. Mo says:

    At the moment there are no units big enough for Wilkos to go.
    I believe they have been looking for a while but all the shops in Beeston are quite small and Wilkos by virtue of the fact it sells so much needs to be bigger.
    I will certainly miss Wilkos. It is not the only shop we have lost. Hunts and Dianes Cabin both have dissapeared from Beeston town centre and I think that neither of them plan to return having spoken to the shopkeepers.
    When we get our newly developed square I am sure Wilkos will be there and we will have to cope until it returns.

  3. Gailsman says:

    An excellent article. It’s a sorry state of affairs and no mistake. The only people that are losing out are the people of Beeston. We will now have to troop out to Long Eaton or the Broad Marsh to get our Wilko goodies. Hopefully B&M get their act together and start selling more of the things that people want to buy.

    Personally I can’t see them ever coming back to Beeston, as by the time that the Square is redeveloped and the dreaded tram is running, it will be too late, as other shops will have taken its place.

    I’m not sure about Sainsbury’s and Tesco opening shops in the Square, as they have superstores in the town already. A Waitrose’s would be good, although obviously they would only really attract the residents of Beeston Fields Drive.

  4. Kate Ames says:

    Excellent coverage. Have been away and missed Wilkos closing, which selfishly I feel quite relieved about, but it would have been nice to show appreciation to the staff in the final days. All in all it’s pretty depressing that Wilkos have been instrumental in this happening.

  5. What an eye opener. All I ever hear is people blaming the tram. I’m a public transport user & this has been number 1 bus gossip topic for the last few months. I feel like printing this blog off & handing it out to all now.

  6. kerrycooks says:

    Great article Matt!! My previously very high opinion of Wilko’s has taken a battering after their appalling behaviour here. I hope they’ll see sense and sign up for the new store.
    Great news about Waitrose – Gailsman – they match Tesco on lots of prices so they’re not actually more expensive and the quality of their bread and other fresh food can’t be beaten

  7. tamar Feast says:

    If I had known the amount of tree-felling and demolition involved in bringing the tram to Beeston I would have opposed it. The Tree-felling especially. It really depresses/angers me.
    To add to this, I now can’t get my weekly Wilko fix. I don’t imagine Beeston will be looking as tree-y and pretty as it once was for a VERY long time.
    And it won’t be worth it.

  8. Javid says:

    Whereas the road widening / new dual carriageway which would be needed without the tram would be much better.

    Or at least we’d have plenty trees to admire whilst sit in longer and longer traffic jams,

    The fault is Wilkos and not the tram.

    • tamar says:

      I work in the city and catch a bus to work – and back – every weekday. Beeston is more-than well serviced in the public transport stakes, Javid – the tram is far from essential. We have at least four regular bus service providers passing through.
      The only traffic jams I ever encounter are those caused by accidents or roadworks – neither will miraculously disappear for the tram as Trams are not immune to their affects.
      If you’re stuck in traffic jams, I would suggest you – and others like you – leave the car behind and use public transport. Bus lanes rule!

      People won’t want to travel to our lovely town at all if it follows its current trajectory to looking more like Beirut than Beeston.

      • Javid says:

        I nearly always use the bus to get to town. To reliably get there for 09:00 I need to leave the house at 07:45. The road and the buses are unreliable. The tram is 99.5% reliable. I could leave at 08:20 and still be at my desk by 09:00: 35 minutes extra in bed. Over an hour of extra life each day.

        Of course if you believe in population countdown then don’t have trams and sit in traffic jams instead of…..

      • Jude says:

        Well said. can I add one thing..we have 4 regular bus services AND a train passing through.

  9. Richard says:

    Wilkos Closed ? – I think I’ll survive.

    • beestonia says:

      Yeah, its n ot life and death. But it is 56 dedicated workers being shat on, and a central part of Beeston being ripped out. Glibness is so in right now, isn’t it?

      • I have written an angry email to Anna Soubry, MP for Broxtowe, expressing my disgust at this debacle. She has replied as follows:
        ” Dear Adrian,

        Thank you for your email.

        As the Member of Parliament I not only spoke to Wilkinsons (as you identify) but also with the then leader of Broxtowe Borough Council, Milan Radulovic. Wilkinsons assured me they wanted to remain in Beeston and that they were working with the Borough Council to find alternative premises in the town. Milan was equally firm in assuring me that this was indeed the case.

        I was left with the firm impression that finding alternative premises was a problem that would soon be resolved and accepted the assurances I was given by the then Leader of the Council.

        As you can see I have copied both Milan and the current leader, Councillor Pat Lally into this email, and the Chief Executive, Ruth Hyde.

        Securing the future of Wilkinsons in Beeston is very important to me and I will do all I can to achieve that.

        Thank you again for your email and I will keep you informed of my work on this matter.

        Anna Soubry
        MP for Broxtowe”

        – so I am watching this space!

      • Kate Ames says:

        Well said Matt.

      • Kate Ames says:

        Well said Matt

  10. Lisa says:

    Waitrose is coming to Beeston? Where did you find this out? Best news I’ve heard in a while! ^.^

  11. Kate Ames says:

    grr why is that showing up here, it’s meant to be in response to Matt’s comment to Richard! Sorry folks.

  12. Javid says:

    I wonder which band-waggon Anna Soubry will get on next. Remind me is she in favour or against the tram?

    Still it’s refreshing to have the views of a non-resident; no matter.

  13. Chuck Beeson says:

    Excellent article Matt – the space for Wilkos is clearly there in The Square plans – why will Wilkos not take it??????

  14. A Different Matt says:

    Where have the rumours about Waitrose come from? Just saw a twitter post from them denying it.

    Also, Any idea which other stores are coming?

    • beestonia says:

      Not officially announced yet, but a near certainty, hence their coyness. Heard much on other shops, but only have one certainty: there will be not be an M&S here next year.

  15. achoudry says:

    Interesting post, thanks for the very even handed comments.

  16. achoudry says:

    Interesting, even handed post. Good to see someone understanding that a knee-jerk reaction is generally the wrong reaction.

  17. achoudry says:

    Nice even handed post. Interesting to read about the machinations behind the redevelopment, and strange that so many are against the tram as Javid makes the case for it pretty emphatically.

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