Oddbins off-licence chain calls in administrators
The Oddbins off-licence chain has gone into administration, putting hundreds of jobs at risk.
Administrator Duff & Phelps (D&P) has been appointed to run the business while they attempt to find a buyer.
Oddbins' owner European Food Brokers (EFB) blamed tough High Street conditions and economic uncertainty created by Brexit for the situation.
Oddbins has about 45 outlets. Other brands affected include Wine Cellar Trading and Whittalls Wines Merchants.
D&P said EFB has about 550 staff and 101 off-licences, but could not confirm exactly how many Oddbins' shops and staff were affected.
But the D&P statement said that "EFB continues to trade and is not an entity that has entered into administration".
Phil Duffy, joint administrator, said Oddbins was a victim of tough times on the High Street, with a decline in consumer spending pointing to a squeeze on household finances.
"Add into that mix rising business rates and rents, and traditional bricks and mortar retailers are undoubtedly feeling the strain." he said.
However, Oddbins faced specific challenges, according to experts.
Julie Palmer, partner at Begbies Traynor, the consultancy and insolvency specialist, said Oddbins had been "slipping down the pecking order for consumers as it struggled to compete with supermarkets offering a selection of discounted and premium wines".
The retailer has also faced stronger competition from rival Majestic, which did well over the Christmas period, she said.
Chris Hunt, head of retail at law firm Gowling WLG, also pointed to the challenge from Majestic, which he said appears to have done well from in-store experiences. "In terms of a direct comparison, the likes of Majestic hold wine tasting and other in-store events to drive footfall over and above their online successes," he said.
It was a lesson for the entire retail industry, he said, adding: "Hobbycraft recently reported that in-store demonstrations were its lifeline over the Christmas period, allowing it to report record sales throughout its outlets."
The appointment of administrators to Oddbins came as now surprise, as EFB warned this week that it was on the brink.
The company said "The deterioration of the High Street, combined with the continuing economic uncertainty surrounding the withdrawal of the UK from the EU, has resulted in an unsustainable, tough physical retail market," it said.
Oddbins went into administration in 2011 after HM Revenue & Customs refused to support a deal with its creditors.
EFB, which is run by businessman Raj Chatha, bought up some of the Oddbins stores at the time through its Whittalls subsidiary.