New-concept Wilko opens in Crawley’s ex-TJ Hughes store
Wilkinson’s “newest and most exciting concept store” has opened at 14-26 The Broadway in Crawley this morning (15 August).
Designed to “offer the community a more modern and interactive shopping experience”, the new store further evolves the modern look that Wilkinson has been rolling out across its estate, such as the recently revamped Newcastle city centre store.
Notably, the Crawley store is the first to adopt a ‘Wilko’ fascia: while the retailer has long used ‘Wilko’ to label own-brand products, its stores, to date, have always been branded as ‘Wilkinson’. New innovations revealed in last week’s Retail Week also include a number of moves to promote Wilkinson’s multichannel credentials, including customer wi-fi and an out-of-hours click-and-collect service where shoppers can collect orders until 8pm.
Via its online store at wilko.com (previously WilkinsonPlus), Wilkinson is already one of the few value retailers to have made a go of e-commerce: though Home Bargains and the relaunched TJ Hughes both have web operations, other competitors such as Poundland and B&M Bargains are yet to operate online, while Poundstretcher closed its transactional website earlier this year. Finding a way of making online retailing pay is likely to be especially challenging for single-price retailers – Wilkinson, at least, can build a bigger average basket size by selling more expensive furniture and household appliances alongside low-value purchases such as stationery, toiletries and kitchenware.
On the theme of TJ Hughes, the new Crawley Wilko has links to quite a few topics that I’ve blogged about in the past. Most obviously, the 54,540 sq ft property that Wilkinson has taken over was occupied by TJ Hughes until it closed almost exactly a year ago, following the discount department store’s collapse into administration.
As far as I’m aware, Crawley is the first ex-TJ Hughes site that Wilkinson has acquired, though there’s a long history of its taking over former department stores, such as the ex-Binns sites in Sunderland and Hartlepool. The large footprints of such premises, across two or three levels, tend to work well for Wilkinson’s broad and extensive product offer.
Prior to TJ Hughes, the Crawley Wilko premises housed a Co-op department store between 1955 and 1999 – another favourite topic at Soult’s Retail View – whose signage was intriguingly re-exposed during Wilko’s recent building work.
Finally, the property is just around the corner from Crawley’s Poundland – one of the chain’s biggest stores – which opened in the town’s former Woolworths premises in 2009. Back in 2010, I blogged about the much smaller and long-closed Woolworths in nearby Horley, noting how the opening of the huge Crawley branch in 1958 had a negative impact on the Horley store’s trade that ultimately contributed to its early closure.
Woolworths’ demise was a blow to places like Crawley, but, in Wilkinson, the town now has a large variety store that arguably fills the space that Woolies vacated. Indeed, it’s a sign of how successfully Wilkinson has grown beyond its Midlands and Northern heartland – falling profits not withstanding – that the new-concept Crawley store made Retail Week’s front page.
The retail world, it seems, will certainly be waiting to see what the shoppers of West Sussex make of their shiny and interactive new arrival.
Thank you to Chris Guy (pixelhut on Flickr) for the photograph of Crawley’s ex-TJ Hughes.
My retail consultancy business, CannyInsights.com, provides bespoke place- and sector-specific market intelligence, including coverage of ex-TJ Hughes locations, and the discount retail sector. It also works with retailers nationwide to improve their stores, customer communications and market knowledge. For more information, visit www.cannyinsights.com, drop me an email, or give me a call on (0191) 461 0361.