The failure of Wilko, the darling of the British retail industry in addition to its increasingly messy resale, has pointed yet again to the star culprit – the British authorities. The botched takeover by HMV boss of 100 out of the 400 Wilko stores has only increased the focus on Britain’s failing leadership. Yet, many believe we are yet to see the worst.
If nothing positive is achieved soon, Wilko will die without passing on its blessing to the next generation and thousands of its staff will end up losing their sources of livelihood. Also, Wilko’s administrator, PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has repeatedly assured the public about finding a suitable buyer in good time, may have to forfeit a large chunk of its credibility. This would be the second failed takeover it would have supervised.
Earlier, the deal to sell Wiko to M2, a leading private equity firm, failed to see the light of day. M2’s major financier, Michael Flacks, pulled out of the deal at the last minute after the company had seemed all set to assume ownership.
But many have traced the debacle back to the government who have for some strange reasons, neglected the frequent assault of criminal gangs on the retail industry. For years, teen gangs have been looting and destroying retail outlets largely unrestrained. The police and the government as a whole have chosen to watch from a distance, leaving the retail brands to their fate.
According to Asda Chairman, Lord Rose, organized shoplifting has been decriminalized due to the police’s nonchalance. The situation has gotten so worse that Tesco has set plans in motion to equip over 300,000 of its staff with bodycam.
Yet, in the face of the rising security challenge, the government has continued to prune the number of police personnel on the streets. In addition, courts are dilapidating and closing down, further slowing down the speed at which justice is dispensed.
The prison system also suffers a similar fate. Prisons are bursting at the seams due to harsher sentencing. Plus, the prisons are becoming increasingly understaffed.
The prospect of Wilko, a centuries-old brand dying without being salvaged should be embarrassing to the top government officials. The present situation should serve as a wake-up call to all concerned, especially the seemingly incompetent ministers.
The government has also been found wanting on the policymaking level. Several policies have exacerbated challenges instead of solving them.
For example, the stop to duty-free shipping for foreigners, a decision meant to fatten government revenue, has ended up draining its pockets. Tourists with large financial war chests have simply chosen European rivals as their newly preferred shopping destinations.
Still, government officials have, for whatever reasons, hindered plans by retailers to improve infrastructure and service delivery. A popular example is when Michale Gove, Secretary of State for Leveling Up, Housing, and Communities, hindered Marks & Spencer’s planned demolition and rebuilding of its Marble Arch Store. It’s time the government showed us if they have the retail industry at heart or not.