Worksop: Town's 2,000-strong ex-Wilko workforce back in jobs

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Donna Kelly, ex-Wilko staff
Image caption,

Donna Kelly started a Facebook group called the "Wilko Warriors", which became a community for former colleagues

When Wilko closed its 400 stores across the country in 2023, it was the end of an era for shoppers and staff.

In Worksop, Nottinghamshire, home to Wilko's head office and distribution centre as well as a store, about 2,000 employees lost their jobs - some heading to the job centre the same day.

But the community rallied around to support them.

Now most ex-employees in the town have found work again, according to job advisers.

Donna Kelly worked at the retailer's distribution centre with a team she said were her "good friends".

'Wilko warriors'

It was the day after her birthday that Ms Kelly was asked to join a meeting in the canteen, along with about 100 fellow workers, where they were told their jobs had been terminated.

"They basically said 'today's your last day'," she said. "I'm not a crier, but I did cry."

Determined to maintain her special friendships with her colleagues, Ms Kelly set up a Facebook group for them called "Wilko Warriors".

She initially made the group for a team of 25 colleagues, but it quickly grew, with other former employees wanting to be part of the community.

Today, the group has more than 2,000 members who support each other in finding work and share happy memories of working for the high street retailer.

Image caption,

Karen Holden and other job centre staff in Worksop helped former Wilko employees get back on their feet

Karen Holden, senior leader at the Worksop job centre, said: "People were coming in, in tears, they were coming in the day they'd lost their jobs.

"They still had their uniform on with signatures and things on their hi-vis vests like when someone had left school."

She added that the people who worked for Wilko were used to "saying 'hello' to at least 600 people a day", so she and her team decided to deliver support and coaching sessions in groups.

Thanks to their help, Ms Kelly now works at Bassetlaw hospital with other, former Wilko colleagues.

She said: "There are a few of us who have come [to work for the hospital] together, and we still talk about [Wilko]."

According to the job centre, only about 20 people of the 2,000-strong former workforce are still looking for jobs.

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