British discount retailer Wilko said it has fallen into administration on Thursday, a form of creditor protection that puts its 12,000 jobs in danger.
The family-owned retailer, facing a cash squeeze after a downturn in trading, had failed to secure emergency investment.
“We left no stone unturned when it came to preserving this incredible business but must concede that with regret, we’ve no choice but to take the difficult decision to enter into administration,” Wilko Chief Executive Mark Jackson said.
Administrator PwC did not have an immediate comment.
Wilko, which sells everything from hardware goods to cleaning products, toys and gardening equipment, trades from about 400 stores across the UK and has an annual turnover of 1.2 billion pounds ($1.53 billion).
It is Britain’s biggest retail casualty since convenience store chain McColl’s collapsed in May last year. McColl’s was subsequently bought by supermarket group Morrisons.
Jackson said Wilko’s had “a significant level of interest,” including indicative offers that could recapitalize the business.
However, “without the surety of being able to complete the deal within the necessary time frame and given the cash position, we’ve been left with no choice but to take this unfortunate action,” he said.
Wilko started as a single hardware store in Leicester, central England, in 1930 but has become the first major retail victim of Britain’s tougher economy, grappling with high inflation and 14 consecutive interest rate rises since December 2021.
Despite the squeeze on household incomes from the jump in interest rates and high levels of inflation, most UK high street chains have traded resiliently so far this year.