Beloved British low-cost chain store Wilko is just days away from disappearing from our high streets for good.
The company went into administration last month, and despite attempts to save it by the owner of HMV and others, it now appears that all hope is gone with the closure of all 400 stores closing for good by the end of this month.
Fellow discount chain Poundland has confirmed that it will be buying 71 stores, but it will rebrand them to its own image.
READ MORE: All 400 Wilko stores to close next month as rescue deal to save chain falls through
So with the iconic red signs about to leave our streets, I took a trip to one of the few still open to see what it was like inside . . . and I needed a stiff drink afterwards.
Manchester's Arndale shopping centre's Wilko store is one of the biggest at the site.
It's closure will leave a giant two-floor store, in prime position right in the centre of the city.
The exterior of the store is plastered with giant yellow closing down sale signs, with some specifically calling it an “administration sale”.
For some odd reason, and in one possible last act of defiance from the small team of staff remaining, the store was blasting out depressing tunes I've never heard of but I did pick up on the lyrics of one song that said “we won't go quietly, we are still here”.
I wouldn't be far wrong if I estimated that around 70% of the shelves are entirely empty, with very few bargains remaining.
Wilko lifeline as rivals given 48 hours for rescue bids to save budget chain
The only section of “full price” stock left is the Halloween section, which appears to be entirely untouched – not surprising when there is actually a Poundland just two minutes walk away with very similar items.
One lonely Christmas tree was left standing in an almost barren festive section, and the less said about the kitchen department the better.
Full list of Wilko stores closing down revealed – see if your local shop is listed
Most people forget that Wilko is one of the few stores left with an iconic pick 'n' mix section – now at 20% off, it will be gone for good in just a few days time.
Most of the shelves have been filled up with giant plastic storage boxes that customers can buy for pretty cheap, while the tinned paint section is on sale for around 30% off.
Wilko bargain chain collapses with 12,000 jobs at risk as rescue talks fail
One very good bargain I did find, and one that will please animal lovers, is the pet food section.
All cat food was on offer at 20% off – and I'm talking about the good stuff from Sheba, as well as the slightly cheaper Whiskas, and the Wilkos' own-brand food, too.
I feel very sorry for the remaining – mainly elderly – staff, who are trying to put a brave face on the fact that they will probably be out of a job in just a few days time.
Wilko bargain chain on brink of collapse with 12,000 jobs at risk
Despite the uncertainty, they did smile and greet customers and helped wherever possible.
They are also keeping the store clean and tidy, despite the obvious clamour from bargain hunters hoping to get their hands on must-have items before the brand disappears for good.
The only other sections with decent offers still to be had are the gardening, DIY and picture frame sections, but I fear that by the time you've read this, it might all be gone.
It will be a sad sight when the brand is gone for good, as will the job losses for nearly 1,400 people – but when you look around at what is left and what was there when it was open as normal, you could be forgiven in thinking the brand never modernised and that shopping on Amazon for cheaper stuff was always going to be the better option.
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