Former trainee window dresser leads Wilkies buyout

Karen Forret is looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead
Karen Forret is looking forward to the challenge that lies ahead

A landmark Falkirk store has been bought by the woman who started out with the firm as a trainee window dresser.

Karen Forret has taken over Wilkies Ltd in a management buyout.

It secures the future of 10 stores and 100 jobs across Scotland.

The company has traded for 114 years and ran the fashion store in Newmarket Street since 1974 when it bought the popular ladies and gents outfitters Andersons from Bill Anderson, who died earlier this month.

Currently the operations and buying director, Karen joined the company 16 years ago on a Government Youth Training Scheme. Initially employed as an assistant window dresser in the Edinburgh Shandwick Place branch, since then she has obtained a marketing degree and worked in a variety of roles.

The business, which has a turnover of £6 million, is being sold by Douglas Wilkie, great-grandson of the founder, who will remain as chairman.

Karen, who lives in Redding, said: “This is another new challenge within a business I have lived and breathed for 16 year – a challenge I am delighted to be facing with a great team behind me.

“It is a great asset to still have Douglas as chairman to support, inspire and question what we do so we can strive to be better. I am honoured to be continuing on the Wilkies brand name and heritage for many years to come.”

Adding that all stores would remain open and there would be no redundancies, she said there was a strong belief that there was still a place on the high street for Wilkies.

She added: “We are not planning to alienate our customer base as other retailers have done. However, those who have not visited Wilkies in a while may be surprised for although we may have been around for 114 years and have old fashioned values, we are not an old fashioned store.”

Announcing the buyout, Douglas Wilkie said: ““Retail is all about change and over the 22 years I have spent in the business the company has changed in many ways whilst retaining our passion for delivering outstanding customer service and great product to communities throughout Scotland. At a difficult time for retail I am very happy to have someone with Karen’s talents and energy in the business to take it on to new levels.”

Currently selling fashion, shoes, accessories and homeware, Wilkies has stores in Falkirk, Edinburgh Morningside, North Berwick, Helensburgh, Kirkcaldy, Peebles, Galashiels, Largs, Stirling and Dundee.

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