Discount chain One Beyond is weighing up taking about 50 former Wilko stores, with the expectation of settling on about 25.
Deals have already been signed for two former Wilko stores – in Boston and Chelmsford – with a third close to signing, One Beyond chairman Chris Edwards Sr told The Grocer.
Edwards, the founder of Poundworld, said One Beyond was negotiating deals directly with landlords who were now reletting vacant stores, having been handed back the keys by administrators for Wilko.
He said One Beyond planned to recruit for the sites by giving jobs to the same team that worked in them under Wilko.
“We currently looking at between 40 and 50 more stores,” he said. “By the time we’ve finished analysing them we think we’ll have about 25.”
He said the One Beyond team had been visiting Wilko stores before the final closures on 8 October to tell staff of their plans. “We’ll have gone in and said we’re looking at taking this store. If it’s a good shop, it could be 15 people needed.
“With staff ready to move in, you can do a very quick turnaround. You change the name, do a little alteration of the racking, send them the stock and they get on with it.”
“A lot of [former Wilko] shops will stay unlet now until way into the new year,” he added.
One Beyond was founded in 2019 and originally called One Below before undergoing a rebranding last year. The chain’s CEO is Chris Edwards Jr, who, together with his father, built Poundworld to over 300 stores before its sale to TPG Capital in 2015.
Edwards Sr told the Grocer One Beyond, currently at 105 stores, aimed to open another 10 this year and reach 150 by November 2024.
Wilko fell into administration in August. It led to the loss of about 12,000 jobs and the closure of about 400 stores after administrators at PwC was unable to find a rescuer for a significant part of the business.
Poundland struck a deal with PwC last month to take on the leases of about 70 stores, and has been negotiating new rent terms with landlords to reopen them under its own brand as quickly as possible. The latest nine are set to open on 21 October, bringing the total reopened by Poundland so far to 37.
The process has seen Poundland offer new roles to hundreds of former Wilko workers, having promised to prioritise them.
The break-up of the Wilko estate also saw B&M agree to take on the leases to 50 stores, and to buy one freehold site, in Porthmadog.