Cornwall's towns could see more high street losses with the collapse of retail giant Wilko today, puttting 400 stores and 12,000 jobs at risk.

The largest privately owned retailer in the UK, high street homewares chain Wilko has three branches in Cornwall: Truro, Redruth and St Austell.

The company had previously filed a notice of intention (NOI) to appoint administrators at the High Court, saying it has failed to find new investment in the face of "mounting cash pressures".

A £1.2-billion turnover business, Wilko has been trading household and garden goods for over 90 years, both on the UK high street and online. But chief executive Mark Jackson said the firm had been left with “no choice” but to take drastic action.

In an open letter on the company website, he added: “We’ve all fought hard to keep this incredible business intact, but must concede that time has run out, and now we must do what’s best to preserve as many jobs as possible, for as long as is possible, by working with our appointed administrators.

“It’s been an honour to have worked alongside you all as we fought to realise and to maximise the significant opportunities that existed to re-establish a profitable Wilko.”

Wilko's Truro store is in a prominent position on historic Boscawen Street. Lucy Jones and Cath King issued a joint statement on behalf of Truro Chamber of Commerce, describing the news as “a blow for the high street and particularly Truro”, while presenting “an opportunity for positive change”.

“It's a sad but understandable decision in the current climate,” they added. “High streets across the UK all have big brand names present, but these are not businesses with local knowledge - they are very far removed from life in small cities and regional towns. We must remember that these are not personal decisions, and are more likely related to shareholders.

“However, there are many small, independent local businesses here and in the surrounding areas that would welcome the chance to have a high street presence. It would be wonderful to see some of these larger premises broken down so multiple people can use them, with affordable leases and welcoming to a variety of businesses.

“This all needs proper discussion. Rates are not currently within localised control and it is not an easy time to run a business. Truro Chamber of Commerce is committed to working with, and advocating for, every business in Truro and the vicinity. We think the news about Wilko and Clintons is a reminder that we need to unite as a city community and make a plan together.”

In St Austell, local politicians expressed concern that the possible loss of St Austell’s Wilko could have a negative effect on the economy of White River Place and the town centre.

Cllr Malcolm Brown, chair of the St Austell Town Council Planning and Regeneration Committee, encouraged residents to keep shopping there and not be put off by the uncertainties.

“Losing Wilko would be serious for the town and I hope there will be a chance to keep it going, even under different management,” he said.  

“This is a large store in a prime position with main entrances at different levels and, if replaced, it needs to be by something of equal or better quality. Realistically, in these difficult times for the high street, this may be challenging and could take years.”

Joanna Kenny, the Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC) for the St Austell & Newquay constituency, described the news as “worrying”.

“St Austell is already losing Poundstretcher because Cornwall Council needs that building as its Hub,” she said. “Wilko going as well could have a real effect on the economic viability of the town centre. These are concerns I’ve been hearing from residents right across the town, even without this latest news.”