Baile: Back end “killed” Oddbins27th July, 2011 by Lucy Shaw
Simon Baile has admitted it was the back end of the Oddbins business that “killed” the off-licence chain.
Speaking exclusively to the drinks business, the former managing director of the failed business said: “The shops weren’t the root cause of the problem; many things killed Oddbins.
“It was the back end of the business that ultimately killed it. Working with such low margins, it’s incredibly important you get that right. If you get that wrong it doesn’t matter what you do at the front.
“We had a lot of fixed term contracts and we couldn’t cover the costs.”
Oddbins went into administration in March this year with debts of over Â£20 million.
Baile admitted he has kept out of what’s been going on at the 37 remaining Oddbins stores over the past few months.
He is now busy developing a small chain of independent wine shops under the ExCellar name, having bought back five Oddbins stores from Deloitte in May to add to his existing four stores in London, Surrey and Paris.
“The shops still look a bit scratchy from the outside, but they’re open for business and we need to push on with the process,” Baile told db.
“I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of staff post-debacle, but one person turned up and the news soon spread, so I’ve got a team of 20 together, made up mainly of ex-Oddbins staff, who are up for the challenge.”
As would be expected, it hasn’t been straightforward securing suppliers. “Some have been supportive, others less so – they know who they are,” Baile said.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and Christmas. We’ll keep on as best we can but it’s going to be tricky.”
Reaction to his latest venture has been mixed. “Some have called me mad and others have wished me well,” Baile said. “I firmly believe what we were trying to do at Oddbins was the right thing. I’m focused on what I need to do now.”
Despite Oddbins’ demise, Baile remains positive about the future of wine on the high street: “I’m passionate about high street retail,” he said. “There’s nothing wrong with having a site on a high street.
“A few bombs have gone off in the trade, which has fragmented it. It’s a very interesting time – the best time in the trade for a while.”
For more on high street wine retail, look out for the August issue of the drinks business