- Wilko poaches Argos’s Anthony Houghton as new retail director
- The value retailer is making a push into London and the Southeast
- Wilko is targeting prime locations including Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road
Wilko has poached Argos retail stores director Anthony Houghton as it gears up for an aggressive push into London and the Southeast.
Retail Week can reveal that former Currys and Woolworths man Houghton will join the value operator next June as a replacement for retail director Robin Lassiter, who is retiring from Wilko after 10 years.
The move comes as Wilko bids to grow its store estate across London and the Southeast, where the retailer feels it is under-represented.
According to a requirements list circulated to property agents, which has been seen by Retail Week, the retailer has an “urgent requirement” for smaller stores of between 2,500 sq ft and 10,000 sq ft situated in prime locations, including London’s Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road.
It also lists Brixton, Camden Town, Hackney, Victoria, Surrey Quays, Ealing Broadway and Greenwich among its desired locations inside the M25.
Wilko also wants to expand in high street and shopping centre locations across the wider Southeast region, eyeing 5,000 sq ft to 15,000 sq ft stores in areas such as Bristol, Oxford, Milton Keynes and Brighton.
The roll-out of smaller format stores – its branches typically measure about 18,000 sq ft – would mark a change of strategy for Wilko, which opened eight shops in the year to January 30, including a 3,000 sq ft outlet on London’s High Street Kensington.
Wilko hailed that 12-month period as “a year of recovery” after pre-tax profit rose from £22.48m to £25.95m, on sales of £1.46bn.
The retailer now trades from 389 stores having opened nine new stores this year – and the documentation seen by Retail Week suggests than 25 more stores are already “in solicitor’s hands” as it ramps up its expansion plans.
A Wilko spokesman said: “We have a strong ambition to open up to 100 new stores over the next five years and London is one of our key acquisition areas.”
Houghton will remain in his role at Argos until he joins Wilko next summer, when he will take a seat on the value retailer’s trading board, reporting to chief operating officer Sean Toal.
Houghton, who initially joined Argos as a regional general manager in 2010, was appointed stores director in 2014 with responsibility for the retailer’s 846-strong store estate.
During that period he also oversaw the opening of 170 new format stores and spearheaded Argos’s bricks-and-mortar tie-up with eBay.
Lassiter, who has served as Wilko’s retail director since 2011, said of his impending exit: “It’s a great business with great people. I’ve really enjoyed my time here and 10 years has gone very fast.”