In a bid to breathe life back into high streets across the UK, the British Independent Retailers Association (BIRA) is urging a prompt reopening of the 280 empty Wilko shops left vacant after the company collapsed into administration.

On 3 August 2023, Wilko filed a notice of intent at the high court to appoint administrators despite specialist retail investor Hilco providing funding in late July 2023.

Positive developments amid closures

Following Wilko’s entry into administration, more than 400 stores closed, resulting in a significant loss of 12,500 jobs. However, a silver lining emerged as major retailers stepped in to acquire former Wilko sites. 

Poundland has purchased 71 locations and has already opened ten stores with plans for ten more this October.

B&M also entered the scene, acquiring 51 Wilko stores, with announcements expected in November regarding their reopening. The Range’s interest in a £5m ($6m) deal further emphasises the commitment to rejuvenating these vacant spaces. 

However, 280 empty and boarded-up former Wilko shops remain across the country.

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By GlobalData

BIRA CEO stresses urgency for high street revitalisation

Amid these positive developments, BIRA CEO Andrew Goodacre emphasised the urgency of reoccupying these vacant retail spaces. 

Highlighting the impact on independent retailers facing ongoing challenges, Goodacre stated, “Boarded-up shops are a blight on the high street landscape.”

With high vacancy rates at 13.8%, BIRA calls on landlords and local authorities to be “creative and bold” in bringing these shops back into use. Goodacre pointed out successful regeneration projects, where reduced rents or rates led to long-term benefits. 

Goodacre asserted that “Removing barriers is crucial,” pointing to ONS figures indicating that 70% of shoppers still prefer high street shopping. He emphasised the need to explore opportunities beyond retail, considering leisure, culture and hospitality options for effective repurposing. 

In the collective effort to revive high streets, the swift reopening of Wilko’s vacant shops stands as a pivotal step, echoing the resilience and adaptability of the retail landscape.