Store closures higher than thought at Oddbins’ parent company

Nearly half of the retail stores operated by Oddbins’ parent company European Food Brokers Retail Ltd were unprofitable and have already been shut db has learnt, as reports circulate that the company may be rescued out of administration by its former owners.

As the news broke this morning that the administrators of UK wine merchant Oddbins are in advanced  talks’ with Walsall-based European Food Broker Ltd’s (EFBL) owner Rajinder Chatha to acquire some of the businesses retail outlets, documents filed at companies house indicated that store closures were higher than previously thought, amounting to 45% of the entire retail estate.

Although administrators Duff & Phelps and EBFL declined to comment on the rumours this morning, administration proposal documents filed at Companies House recently confirmed that 45 unprofitable stores were identified across the group, and these were closed by 19 March, as part of a cost-cutting exercise to reduce further losses.

The closures affected more than 200 employees, with the highest proportion affecting staff at Wine Cellars Trading Limited (WCTL).

Currently 58 stores remaining trading, but more store closures may happen during the potential sale process, if the incoming purchaser is unable to agree terms going forward with the landlords, the document said.

As revealed by the drinks business last week, thirteen  Oddbins stores have been shut, with a further 32 closed stores coming under its sister company Wine Cellars Trading Limited, which trades under the Booze Buster, Simply Drinks, Oddies, and Shop2Go fascias.

These outlets are primarily based in the North East and North West of England and include stores in Carlisle, Broughton, Northwhich, Castle Bromwich, Cockermouth, Consett, Corby, Crosby, Dorking (an Oddbins store under WCTL’s banner), Egremont, Wesham, Darlington, Stockton-on-Tees, Horsforth, Horwich, Knottingley, Maryport, Meols, Morpeth, Hucknall, Sunderland, Wallsend, Birkenhead, Wrexham, Catterick Garrison, Morecombe, Sowerby Bridge, St Helens (Merseyside), Billigham and Hunts Cross (Liverpool).

All of the companies’ outlets were leasehold, and the document revealed that leases on the estate were not paid in the last quarter of December 2018, resulting in several landlords and local authorities threatening legal action over the unpaid rates and rents.

The document also reveals the extent of the companies financial difficulties, with losses most heavily accrued by Wine Cellars Trading Ltd. It recorded non-preferential trade and expense creditors amounting to nearly £813,000, with nearly two thirds (£540,000) accrued by WCTL, it said. In addition, beneficiary owner Rajinder Chatha was said to be owed more than £5.6 million across the three retail companies.

The document also recorded a VAT liability of more than £465,000 which is owed to HMRC.

However, in the months to 22 March, gross sales across the group amounted to £2.355 million, with trading costs of £1.88 million.

For our analysis of the potential sale of Oddbins please see here.

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