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Boycott Wickes (but not for the reason you think)

A year ago, Fraser Longden, the Chief Operating Operator of the DIY store Wickes, was in the news. On 16 June 2023, Internet Retailing magazine ran this story: “Wickes hits back at boycott campaign over COO’s comments that trans-critical shoppers ‘are not welcome’ in stores.”

I was aware of the boycott but did not join in. We do buy stuff from Wickes on occasion. It is useful that they open at 7am and close at 8pm. I certainly was not going to give up that utility because the company had gone woke. If I were to boycott all the companies who waste their substance by hiring “inclusion and diversity” teams and whose senior staff members gush about it to the media, I would have to live like a hermit. Still, it was foolish of Fraser Longden to first tell Pink News that “Creating a culture where everybody can feel welcomed – can be their authentic self, can be supported – is about modernising our business” and then tell the same Pink News that, in his estimate, ten percent of the UK population are “not welcome in our stores anyway”. I did not know whether my position on these issues, which I like to think of as nuanced, would have allowed him to welcome me through the rainbow-festooned portals of Wickes. Nor did I care. Wickes can hate me and still sell me screws.*

No, the thing that has made me decide to boycott Wickes happened a mere seven months ago, but I must have missed the story at the time. On 4 November 2023, the Telegraph reported, “DIY giant Wickes fails to shut down website accusing it of being ‘woke’”

The DIY giant Wickes has been accused of stifling freedom of speech after its boss tried unsuccessfully to shut down a website criticising it as “woke” after its boss told trans-critical “bigots” to shop elsewhere.


In response [to Mr Longden’s comments], Timothy Huskey set up the protest site featuring the headline “Woke Wickes” and claiming “the UK calls for a boycott of Wickes” due to its “highly controversial sexual agenda”, claiming that the company “hates” customers who think there are only two genders.


In July, the home improvements store’s lawyers contacted Nominet, the body which oversees UK domain names, to complain that the website was abusing the company’s trademarked name, contained “malware capabilities” and was being used for “phishing”, a reference to the use of emails and online platforms for fraudulent behaviour.

Papers filed with the watchdog also said the site was set up for commercial gain and intended to “unfairly disrupt” Wickes’s business.

In response, Mr Huskey, who is American, said he set up the site as “legitimate criticism” of Wickes, and made it “abundantly clear” it is not connected to the company, even offering visitors the address for the company’s official website if anyone wanted to shop with them. He insisted it was not used to make money or for any phishing fraud and contained no malware.

The adjudicator, who ruled on the dispute, found the use of the word “boycott” in the protest site’s name meant visitors would not think it was linked to the official Wickes’s site.

They concluded the company’s claims the site was malicious or set up for “phishing” fell “well short of what is required to support its serious allegation”.

They added that Wickes had not proven that the criticism on the website was “of such an exceptional nature” to merit the site to be shut down. They were also satisfied it was not set up for commercial or illicit purposes.

Wickes’ use of obviously spurious claims about malware and phishing to attempt to silence a critic enrages me. I am glad the attempt failed; https://www.boycottwickes.co.uk/ is still there. Mind you, so is Fraser Longden. Obviously the earlier boycott did not damage their bottom line that much. And I do not delude myself that my little mini-boycott will leave their accountants a-tremble. Mr Longden is right about one thing, most grand resolutions fizzle out when it’s 6:30pm, everywhere else is closed, and you desperately need a screw.

Nonetheless, given that companies will count an expensive advertising campaign a success if it increases custom by one or two percent, they would be wise not to do things that cause even a few of their customers to get into the habit of looking elsewhere first. That is how most of my “boycotts” end up. In 2019 Nigel Farage had a milkshake thrown over him for the first time. Someone in Burger King’s social media team proved their worth by putting out a tweet saying, “Dear people of Scotland. We’re selling milkshakes all weekend. Have fun. Love BK. #justsaying”. The net worth of most companies’ social marketing teams is negative: until then I had often used the Burger Kings at motorway service stations because, like Wickes, they remain open when other outlets are closed, and because a family member gets a discount, but their encouragement of political violence led me to declare a boycott. Predictably, my resolve wavered. I have eaten several Burger King burgers at motorway services since then, when BK was the only place selling food open, or because it was what other members of the party wanted. But five years of looking elsewhere first adds up.

*I meant the type of screw that comes in Metric, Imperial or Whitworth. Although having started that line of thought, I did not have the strength not to follow the Wikipedia link that told me that all screws have inherent male gender.

30 comments to Boycott Wickes (but not for the reason you think)

  • AFT

    Amusing to see Sharron Davies described as “One Twitter user” in the linked article. Whatever about the name, I’d have thought that the ‘MBE’ might have made the writer realise that this wasn’t just some random nobody. Apparently not.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I came across this on the Law & Liberty blog. I think it is relevant for this topic, as it concerns JK Rowling:

    When describing his response to Charles Dickens, George Orwell famously talked of seeing the writer’s face behind the page as he read, say, Hard Times. Not an official portrait, or how posterity remembered Dickens’s appearance. “What one sees is the face that the writer ought to have,” he wrote. Dickens the nineteenth-century liberal had a face of “free intelligence, a type hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies which are now contending for our souls.”

    There is something of Orwell’s Dickens in Rowling, and not just because she—like he—has become a transatlantic phenomenon. Like Dickens, she loves children and reserves her greatest concern for them. But she will not lie to them, and people who refuse to lie in public these days are indeed hated with equal hatred by all the smelly little orthodoxies now contending for our souls.

  • Alex

    I haven’t been to a Wickes since their declaration that people like me are unwelcome. I have no problem with other people living how they choose but the moment they started coercing people to use their preferred pronouns and other such things I became implacably opposed to such attempts to bully people into submission. The irony is, of course, that far from this country being some sort of hotbed of bigotry, it is one of a handful of countries in which the majority of people mind their own business and try to accommodate alternative lifestyles as much as possible. It’s never enough for the permanently offended, and unfortunately given the demographic changes in recent years it is likely to turn into a much more hostile place for anyone who is different.

  • Discovered Joys

    I have not actively boycotted Wickes… but I have passively boycotted them by choosing to go somewhere else if possible, and it’s usually possible.

    I do actively boycott Walkers Crips and will continue to do so until Gary Lineker is no longer associated in any form with them. YMMV.

  • William H. Stoddard

    Two different companies whose products I used to buy got in the habit of sending me e-mails putting forth their (progressive) political views, apparently assuming that all their customers would share them and approve of hearing about them. But there are other worthwhile flavors of ice cream than Ben and Jerry’s in the supermarkets, and there is at least one other large online vendor of spices than Penzey’s. I must admit that I miss frozen yogurt, and especially Cherry Garcia, but I can find other pleasures.

    Of course I could tell that B&J were on the left from the jokes embedded the the names of their flavors. But as long as they didn’t pontificate about it I was happy to live and let live.

  • John

    I’ve just collected an order from my local branch of the excellent Dunelm. Every single checkout had a pride progress flag fluttering away.

    The store obviously wasn’t taking this head office dictated action too seriously. One flag fastened to its pole by the stripey end rather than that brown and white triangle, which always reminds me of a Neapolitan ice cream cone, attested to that. I guess the various sub-classes of deviancy depicted thereon wouldn’t be too worried about being positioned A over T.

  • WindyPants

    Mr Longden is right about one thing, most grand resolutions fizzle out when it’s 6:30pm, everywhere else is closed, and you desperately need a screw.

    Doubly so by midnight in my experience – arf-arf!!!

  • PaulF

    FWIW, I haven’t seen Lineker in any Walker’s adverts recently: he seems to have been replaced by Thierry Henry and David Beckham in some truly awful cringeworthy ads. I know that footballers aren’t going to be the most natural “actors” in the world, but really!

  • Sigivald

    “We’re proud of our positions, so proud we tried to illicitly* shut down a website complaining about the positions we’re proud of!”

    (* False claims of malware and phishing to such an authority are illicit in the sense that is not a mere synonym for unlawful, which it presumably was not.)

    I wonder if they’re discovering that people took their “you’re not welcome here” seriously and it’s actually hurting the company, not just being a performance piece that only The Correct People cared about and pretended was meaningful?

  • Alex

    Wickes Group plc is down 45% since its IPO, and things are not looking healthy.

    DIY and trade home-improvement retailer Wickes beat market forecasts despite a drop in its annual profits, but warned that trading since the start of the year continues to be challenging.

    It was a stupid thing to alienate so much of its core market. Most people will probably not care much, but I know my neighbour who is a builder won’t shop there any more (I think he generally uses builders merchants anyway, so it’s probably not a huge inconvenience to him but he did say to me that he was boycotting Wickes). Like Natalie so ably said above, the efficacy of advertising and marketing campaigns is usually single-digit percentage and if just 1% of their customers stopped buying he undid a years worth or more of advertising and marketing efforts. Margins are tight in that business, and petty shoplifting is rising which is further affecting their profitability, so losing just 2% of customers can be the difference between thriving and going out of business.

    I used to work for a company in a very similar, allied market segment and routinely performed analysis on sales data.

  • Stonyground

    I’ve always found Wickes to be more expensive than B&Q and the local B&Q is much bigger and so has better choice. My local Wickes is closer than B&Q and used to be on my way to work so I didn’t boycott it totally but I have avoided using the place since they said that they hate me. I think that the censorship issue is a bigger deal really, especially the false allegations. I wasn’t aware that Burger King had joined in with this nonsense. What the hell is wrong with them? Sell hardware, grill burgers, leave the politics out of it, nobody gives a shit about your opinions.

  • Kirk

    I think that there’s a line in there, somewhere…

    On the one hand, I’m a tolerant sort of person. You don’t bother me, you don’t bother mine, you keep it in the bedroom…? I don’t care what you get up to. Be gay, transgender, whatever… That’s you doing you, and I’m perfectly alright with you being able to do that. I feel the same way about religion, BTW.

    Where I draw the line is when you start moving from simply doing your own thing to actively proselytizing for the things that are socially destructive. Smoke, if you like; do not try to recruit young non-smokers into the filthy habit. Same with drugs; do your thing, leave the kids alone.

    My issues with the whole of “activist LGBTWTFBBQ” world is that they’re taking something that’s a minor social issue, and pumping it with bellows until the whole thing ignites and takes down a significant and important part of the social system. You don’t go from a 1-3% incidence rate for “gender dysmorphia” in the schools to where it’s something like 60% of the class reporting that they’re lesbian/bisexual and confused about whether they’re a boy or a girl naturally.

    The whole of activist anything, particularly the LGBTWTFBBQ end of things, are more “crowbars to wreck society with” than actual means to improve lives for the afflicted. The general idea, I suspect, is to destroy anything restraining the perverse from being criticized in larger life, like common sense and accountability for actions. Unfortunately, an awful lot of the “activism” takes the form of railing against the laws of the universe…

    Whatever or whoever it is, I’m not a fan. They’ve nothing on offer, or even planned, to do so much as maintain the progress we’ve made, let alone improve it. They just want to destroy it all, and replace it with their pet ideologies, which manifestly do not work.

  • Paul Marks

    Normally a “Woke” (i.e. Critical Theory Marxist) saturated corporation will put up a sign, or run a campaign, saying “all welcome” or “we are for everyone” – this is code for “non leftists are NOT welcome here”.

    But Wickes went a stage further – and openly said that non leftists would not welcome in its stores, fair enough I will not force my presence upon them.

    And now Wickes are lying about malware – well lying is what leftists do.

    As I have said before, as recently as the 1980s Corporations still acted as-if we were in a capitalist society – we were not in a capitalist society, we were (even then) in a society dominated by Credit Money created from nothing and dished out to the connected, but they still operated as-if we were in a sane society – they still supported (or at least presented themselves as supporting) the basic virtues and cultural institutions of society.

    But now the Corporations, dominated by people who were “good students” (i.e. uncritical sponges – who absorbed all the indoctrination) at university, are openly vile – and they think they can get away with it.

    After all in a world of vast government (government spending contracts, and government regulations to crush competitors), endless Credit (fiat) Money, and Credit Bubble Finance – who needs to please customers?

    In the future people will be told what to spend their “digital money” on anyway – so the Corporate bigwigs assume.

  • Paul Marks

    “You will not be missed” Games Workshop told its customers.

    You are “toxic”, you are racist-sexist-homophobes – Disney told its customers.

    Such Corporations are not even pretending they are operating in a capitalist economy any more – in a capitalist economy enterprises try and serve their customers, they do not constantly spit on customers.

  • NickM

    I’m sure you missed a “Screwfix” joke somewhere 😉

    A few years back I saw a pro-Venezuela protest in Newcastle (just by Grey’s Monument – back when it was a Commie Hellhole – I mean Venezuela, but…) and I told one of them they had their flag upside-down. Yes, they did. The Venezuelan flag has an arch of stars. They were flying it the wrong way up because, and I quote, “It looked happier that way – like a smile!”. Yeah, like the poor bastards starving in Caracus.

    Of course an upside-down flag is an internationally recognised distress sign. They took my advice, after checking on a phone.

    I don’t think they grokked the “distress” thing.

    I was grimly amused the whole afternoon.

  • Stonyground

    Well you do know that right isn’t just the opposite of left, right is also the opposite of wrong.

  • “…to complain that the website was abusing the company’s trademarked name, contained “malware capabilities” and was being used for “phishing”, a reference to the use of emails and online platforms for fraudulent behaviour.”

    Question for one of our commenting lawyers: is this not defamation?

  • Ben

    Wickes going woke seems kind of insane. Without specific knowledge of the demographics of their customer base you would assume it contains a lot of people who aren’t partial to the woke agenda. Maybe Wickes has better knowledge of their customers than my prejudices.

  • bobby b

    Perry de Havilland (Wiltshire)
    June 27, 2024 at 11:51 pm

    ” . . . is this not defamation?”

    American-centric response: No. There is an absolute privilege granted to defamatory statements made in the course of legal proceedings. “Legal proceedings” encompasses a lot.

    (That’s why every unsuccessful prosecution or civil lawsuit isn’t quickly followed by a libel-defamation claim. A public charge of “He raped her”, followed by a trial that legally concludes that he didn’t rape her, would otherwise be sort of the ultimate defamation case slam-dunk.)

    Caveat: Your system handles defamation very differently than does ours, and I don’t know for certain that this privilege exists for you.

  • Mr Ed

    In England and Wales, there is a defence of ‘absolute privilege’ against defamation for the conduct of proceedings, so that (i) people are not deterred from bringing or defending claims by fear of consequences and (ii) so that there isn’t ‘satellite litigation’ about the litigation, which would mean one court ultimately having another look at a previous case that is properly before the original court, which is an abuse of process unless an appeal. So whilst sending someone those letters is not defamation per se, it has to be linked to the defence of proceedings.

    But there is also a potential sting in that if you come to starting a claim, then your particulars of claim have to be attested by a ‘statement of truth’ and to make a false statement in your claims risks (in theory) action for contempt of court against the person making the claim or the solicitors acting for them.

    It really should be a professional conduct issue as well for solicitors to engage in baseless threats, leading to possible sanctions but this is pretty rare.

  • Peter MacFarlane

    I am astonished that “open till 8pm” is a selling point.

    Natalie, you need to come and live in Scotland where all such stores are open until 10pm, often including Sundays.

    Or on second thoughts, perhaps you shouldn’t…SNP and all that 😬

  • Y. Knott

    It goes on-and-on, the pendulum is beginning to swing back to the right but it’s being d@mned slow about it…

    I personally have a long and ever-growing list of companies I boycott, which is of quiet comfort to me but absolutely no effect to them because I don’t buy their stuff anyway. As an example, I added Coke, Nike and Apple to my boycott list after they tried to stop the U.S. Congress from censuring China over its treatment of the Uighur Muslims – well big deal, I think I’ve had one pair of Nike shoes in my life and I’ve never bought ANYTHING Apple. Coke though; I’ve been a diet-cokaholic for an embarrassing number of decades. I switched immediately to Pepsi and have not bought Coke products since if I could avoid it… but… what’s that sitting on the table beside me as I type this? – oh yeah, a diet coke.

    Ya’ see, far more mornings than I ought to, I buy breakfast at McDonalds – and it always includes a large Diet Coke, because Micky-Dee’s exclusively supplies coke products. I like the ice in the drink because I refill the cup at least once from my handy-dandy bar fridge (which is stocked with the no-name “cheap stuff”), and from 1 June to Labour Day it’s Dollar Drink Days at the golden arches, and everybody else’s large fountain drinks are over $3 around here (Rotten Ronnie’s ‘Dollar Drink Days’ sell a large DC here for $1.50, plus tax of course, which irks because the most expensive part of a large McDonald’s D.C. is the cup). My alternate breakfast nook recently removed my favourite breakfast item from their menu, and they don’t sell fountain drinks anyway, so I’m sorta’ hooked.

    Ah well – you do what you can and slog-on down the road. I’ve just refilled the cup, and the name on the bottle is “President’s Choice”. Take THAT, coke!!!

  • Snorri Godhi

    My PhD advisor remarked that you should never give advice, except to marry rich.
    Disregarding that advice, i suggest that you avoid, not only Coke and Pepsi, but also McDonald’s.
    Not for political reasons: it’s because what they peddle, causes brain damage.

    And you should perhaps also skip breakfast. Intermittent fasting is good for you.
    Lately, i have gone extreme, hardly eating anything except for dinner.
    But that is due to the local heat wave.

  • Alex

    I wonder if the pendulum swinging back slowly is more to do with the older generations. Apple, for example, must have a customer base that’s entirely corporate or over the age of 50 (if not 60), for products other than the iPhone. I had a MacBook Pro at my last job which was fine, quite good actually, but I’m back on Linux on a PC in my current gig and preferring it. I don’t know any younger people who have Mac at home, though they were popular with the team and applicants for jobs were generally impressed by the investment though some members of the team would have preferred Windows or Linux.

    Nike has lost a lot of its cachet with the younger generations, in any case they’ve been an “athleisure” brand for about 2 decades at least not taken all that seriously by sporty types. There’s a significant lag on this stuff of course and I sometimes see desk jockeys in their late 50s rocking a just-bought pair of Nike but among the yoot you’re not likely to see that. Converse and Vans have been more popular among the younger generations for quite a while, of course the big N actually own Converse these days anyway, and brand name isn’t as important as it used to be for the younger generations anyway.

    One day in my last office there was an extended casual discussion about soft drinks going on in the background. I and my 50-something old colleague favoured Pepsi Max (she drinks it daily, I only occasionally indulge) but I was astonished that most of my team who are between about 20 and late 30s don’t drink Pepsi, Coke, etc at all or even coffee. The most popular drink was water, followed by energy drinks like Monster. I was the sole daily coffee drinker in my team, but my tastes were much more inline with the other managers. Definitely an age thing, but I’m probably (just) closer to the average age of the devs than the average age of the other managers. The times they are changing, but the bulk of wealth in society is still with the older generations and they aren’t voting with their wallets yet but there may be surprises in store for the woke companies as Gen Z and the later Millennials start to replace the Boomer, X and early Millennial cohorts.

    Snorri said:

    And you should perhaps also skip breakfast. Intermittent fasting is good for you.

    I’m doing intermittent fasting, 16:8. I am eating breakfast about 8am and then my dinner at around 4pm, and nothing further. I’ve never felt more energetic.

  • Snorri Godhi


    I’m doing intermittent fasting, 16:8. I am eating breakfast about 8am and then my dinner at around 4pm, and nothing further. I’ve never felt more energetic.

    Good for you.
    I am a late riser, so i (normally) only eat late lunch & dinner.

    May i suggest that you segregate?
    Usually, but not dogmatically, i eat only animal food at lunch and only veggies at dinner.
    I think that it is good for me to avoid proteins most of the day, and carbs most of the day.
    So far, it seems to works out; except in this heat wave.

  • Y. Knott

    “Lately, i have gone extreme, hardly eating anything except for dinner.”

    I congratulate you, and am sadly envious; but you are likely younger than I am. I don’t fast because if I tried it, my stomach would certainly take it as a personal insult and make my life “REALLY unpleasant” instead of its current “merely unpleasant”, which it does whenever it decides I’ve left it empty for a bit too long. And I ain’t going to put it – or me – through that. Life’s too short, but certain of our organs, if feeling abused, can make it a lot shorter! 🙁

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    “Never eat between snacks.” Good advice I read somewhere. I am a step-vegan- I only eat meat that ate plants.

  • Snorri Godhi

    I congratulate you, and am sadly envious; but you are likely younger than I am.

    Mid 60s.

    I, too, felt ravenously hungry when approaching mealtimes; but that was when i ate more carbs than i eat now.

  • bobby b

    I haven’t actually felt a hunger pang for a few years. Ketosis and no insulin swings and all that . . .

    But carb cravings are another thing. If I could take care of those, I’d have to remind myself periodically to eat.

  • Jim

    ” most grand resolutions fizzle out when it’s 6:30pm, everywhere else is closed, and you desperately need a screw”

    I’d be very surprised if a location that has a Wickes store (230 UK wide) doesn’t also have a Screwfix store (1726 UK wide) or a Toolstation store (550 UK wide) somewhere pretty close by, both of which open 7am to 8pm and stock a large range of fixings among many other DIY/building supplies.

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