Yorkshire shoppers react as Wilko stores set to close

With the news that Huddersfield’s Wilko will be closing its doors, leaving another gap in the high street, we spoke to local shoppers to find out their thoughts on the closure and state of their town centre.

Next week, retail giant Wilko will be closing 52 of its stores across the UK. Twenty-four stores will be shutting for good on September 12, with a further 28 to follow on September 14. To the dismay of Huddersfield shoppers, their local store is destined for closure and will leave another one of the town’s retail units empty, with at least a third of all units already vacant, as this reporter found out in June.

One shopper said: “It’s a shame, it’s like the rest of town – going downhill fast. Everyone shops at B&M and home bargains now.”

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Another shopper said: “I am gutted at the closure of the store. It’s got everything you need. These are sad times.”

Retail giant Wilko will be closing 52 of its stores across the UK including the one in Huddersfield. Credit: Abigail Marlow.Retail giant Wilko will be closing 52 of its stores across the UK including the one in Huddersfield. Credit: Abigail Marlow.
Retail giant Wilko will be closing 52 of its stores across the UK including the one in Huddersfield. Credit: Abigail Marlow.

Michelle, a Huddersfield local said: “I think it’s sad for it to go. I’ve always come to Wilko since I was very little. It’s very sad.”

Shoppers Eileen and Ruth felt that Huddersfield was in need of more shops, not less. Eileen said: “It shouldn’t be closed down. It’s ridiculous. Wilko does an array of items from gardening to kitchenware. It’s a necessity.

“Instead of spending the money on planters, they should lower the rents for shops.”

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Regular Wilko shopper Paul said: “It’s upsetting. It’s a shop I come in quite often.”

Councillor Graham Turner, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, said: “It’s always sad when a business must close, and my thoughts are with those employees who are about to lose their jobs and livelihoods.

“There have been many well-known high street names lost over the years due to the changes in people’s shopping habits, and we now have the cost of living crisis and squeeze on people’s incomes which is putting even more pressure on the high street. This means all our town centres including Huddersfield have seen decreasing footfall and, sadly, more empty units. These issues are by no means unique to Huddersfield – this has been happening to town centres up and down the country with significant changes in the retail landscape.

“While filling empty units with more shops would be fantastic, realistically what we need is a more varied offering. This will be provided through projects like Our Cultural Heart, which will create more of a buzz in the town from day to night bringing in a prosperous new era by providing different offers to attract people into town centres alongside retail.

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“Our development of New Street and investment in Kingsgate Shopping Centre, both of which are already onsite and delivering, show that we still believe retail has a big part to play in our town’s future – but combined with other elements to draw people in and believe that our investment in Huddersfield right now will make a world of difference, bringing more people into the town centre and help businesses thrive.”

Huddersfield BID said: “Huddersfield has received the unfortunate news that, along with 52 other towns and cities in the UK, Wilko will be closing its doors. This is a national issue and will be a sad loss to every high street affected as Wilko is long-standing, firm favourite for many shoppers.

“As ever, Huddersfield BID remains committed to enhancing the town’s appeal and will work closely with stakeholders within the BID zone to continue efforts to improve the town by making it a safer and more attractive place to live, work and visit alongside providing events which highlight the town and all that it has to offer.

“We will assist the Wilko team in any way we can to find employment within the BID zone and I am sure there will be many agencies within the town offering their help.

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“Despite the pandemic’s impact, Huddersfield has shown resilience with lower vacancy rates compared to similar-sized towns, so we have bounced back a lot better than others. Huddersfield is a strong town with a lot to offer, the positive developments happening at the Kingsgate, George Hotel and around the town demonstrate that we are moving forward and looking to the future.

“I would encourage any businesses with retail vacancies to contact Huddersfield BID, so we can begin sharing vacancies to Wilko team members and keep such great retail staff working within our town.

“The council has major plans for Huddersfield town centre, particularly in the form of the Huddersfield Blueprint. This transformative project seeks to revitalise the town and will be focused around Our Cultural Heart in the Piazza area.”