Wilko has opened its first new concept stores in Devon’s Plymouth and Exeter as it returns to the UK high street.

Retail Week attended the grand opening of the 3,000 sq ft store in Plymouth, which sells health and beauty products, kitchen equipment, cleaning supplies, food, pet items and Wilko own-brand goods.

Seasonal items, Christmas decorations and paintings have also been introduced by The Range, whose owner CDS Superstores recently bought the Wilko brand and website.

“This is like Wilko 2.0 – it’s all new and improved,” a Wilko spokesperson told Retail Week. “It offers all the same things customers loved from Wilko before, but this time we have 20% more product, new services and full shelves.

“We’re also making sure we are stocked with everyday essentials so customers can walk items home or carry them on a bus.”

Expanded range and services

Along with staples such as stationery, home and beauty, other products and services have been introduced to the store.

The National Lottery is back after a period of absence, one of many partners that stopped working with Wilko as it struggled financially. 

The store also features a Timpson key-cutting kiosk, a Dulux paint-mixing service and a Rug Doctor carpet-cleaner hire service.

The large store has also made room for 20% more products, allowing for wider categories and an expanded food offering, including the return of pick-and-mix sweets.

“Wilko started to exit food, but we brought it back because it’s a core part of the offer if you want to be an everyday essentials retailer,” the spokesperson said.

“The size of each store will depend on the amount of space that is given to food. Some of our stores will have a significant food offer, which makes us more competitive with the likes of B&M and Home Bargains.”

He added that The Range is strong in “seasonal categories”, which it has added to the new Wilko store. Once Christmas is over, these items will be replaced with garden furniture.

As well as being fully stocked with a vast array of product categories, the store will introduce a new in-store order point.

The spokesperson said customers will be able to “order from an additional 50,000 products on Wilko.com”, which is expected to be available from January.

Forward-thinking

Despite an extremely turbulent year, which saw Wilko fall into administration in August, the retailer is positive that its revival will be successful.

“The opportunity for Wilko from a profitability point of view is to leverage all of the infrastructure The Range has,” the spokesperson said.

“It hasn’t got all the overheads it had before, which caused the challenges. It’s using The Range’s logistics and its infrastructure, so the cost to serve is obviously a lot better.”

The Range owner Chris Dawson, who recently purchased the Wilko brand and intellectual property, was upbeat about the new openings.

Speaking at the Plymouth opening, Dawson said he “believes in the brand” and is “ambitious” about rolling out more stores.

He spoke of his plans to expand Wilko stores across the UK, including in Northern Ireland for the first time, with an ultimate goal of bringing 300 back to the high street.