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Oddbins prepares to appoint administrators

The owner of UK off-licence chain Oddbins has filed a notice of its intention to appoint administrators, blaming the “deterioration of the high street” and Brexit uncertainty for the situation.

Oddbins owner European Food Brokers (EFB) has filled notice to appoint Duff & Phelps as its administrators, according to reports by Sky News.

A spokesperson later confirmed that that the notice had been served in relation to EFB subsidiary companies including Wine Cellar Trading Limited, Whittals Wine Merchants (which bought Oddbins in 2011) and EFB Retail Limited.

The spokesperson added: “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.

“We will endeavour to continue to operate all stores as a going concern while options are assessed for the business, including a possible sale. All businesses continue to trade until further notice.”

“European Food Brokers Limited and its additional businesses continue to trade and are not part of this announcement”.

In an email to staff at the EFB Group which was seen by the Guardian, the retail group warned of job cuts as it considered its future options following an “extremely tough” Christmas.

It added that the group’s retail businesses “cannot continue in their current form” and as a result, may have to be sold.

EFB also stated that it had been adversely affected by currency fluctuations and had experienced a 17.8% rent rise on average at its sites. This had put “a significant strain on the cash flow of the business”.

The email read:  “The past couple of months have been extremely tough trading-wise and, like the rest of the high street in the UK, the important Christmas period was difficult for us.

“At this stage, all businesses should continue to trade until further notice. However, we owe it to you as our loyal employees to be honest and say to you that it is highly likely that, devastatingly, there will be job losses in the near future.”

EFB employs around 539 members of staff and has over 100 sites.

Oddbins itself has around 45 UK stores. This is now the second time that the off-licence chain has found itself at the mercy of a prospective buyer.

In April 2011, it was placed in administration after it racked up considerable debt, the largest amount (£8.6 million) being owed to HMRC. In the same month, Whittalls Wine Merchants, a subsidiary of EFB Retail, reached an agreement to purchase 37 Oddbins stores, saving more than 200 jobs in the process.

Before Oddbins, First Quench Retailing, the owner of Thresher’s, collapsed in 2009, while the Unwins chain went bust in 2005. Fast-forward from 2011, Waverley TBS collapsed in 2012 while wholesaler Conviviality fell apart last year, with its subsidiary businesses divided between the C&C Group and Bestway.

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