Oxford Wine Company to open new site at former Oddbins

Independent wine retailer The Oxford Wine Company is set to open another shop in central Oxford on the site of the former Oddbins store.

The new shop is on Little Clarendon Street, in the Jericho part of the city, close to its wine café.

“There has been a wine shop on the premises for many years, and we are delighted to be picking up the mantle and ensuring that Little Clarendon Street still has a source of quality wines and spirits,” the team said in an email to customers.

It is set to open the retail space in November with a second phase – converting the large, airy first floow into an events and tasting space – scheduled to begin next year.

The Oxford WIne company, which was founded 28 years ago, currently operates two shops in central Oxford, on Botley Road and Turl Street, along with its HQ in Standlake, which has a small shop, and a concession shop at Millets Farm. Two piano bars, Sandy’s Piano Bar in Oxford and Chelsea, are run as a standalone business by Sanbach’s son George. but are currently ‘bubble-wrapped’ until the pandemic restrictions lift.

During lockdown, the wine caféand piano bars were closed and staff furloughed for three months along with the small Turl Street shop, however the Botley and Witney shops remained open, and the team have reported a boom, along with strong online sales.

Speaking to db today, Sandback said he had had his eye on the former Oddbins, which is owned by University College Oxford for some time, as it was “the perfect geography” only a stone’s throw from the Jericho café.

He said business had been going very well, depite the wine bar being restricted to 35 people and the 10pm curfew, as well as table service increasing costs. Retail sales were up £82,000 last month on last year’s figures and he said online had “taken off”.

The new shop and ramped up online venture are part of a shift in the but business model, which was previously focussed 70/30% on wholesale/retail and online. This is now more like 50/50, and Sandbach is keen to keep it this way.

The company was forced to sell its original wine café in Summertown in the quiet but affluent area of north Oxford in July 2017 following massive rent and rate hikes. At the time, owner Ted Sandbach told db the plan was to concentrate instead on its central Oxford locations, including the then new shop in Turl Street, and its busy Jericho wine café, which opened in April 2015. The move marked a change of tack for the independent merchant, which had originally intended to concentrate on its “more profitable” and more easily managed wine café concept and the company’s wholesale business.

Oddbins’s Oxford store  survived the initial round of closures made after the company was put into administration in January 2019. The company had blamed Brexit uncertainty and the deterioration of the high street, although it later became clear that its financial woes came in part from HRMC revoking the excise approvals of its parent company and chief supplier, European Food Brokers Limited. Although according to the administrator, all shops were closed at the onset of lockdown on 24 March and staff furloughted, in June 2020, a “substantial part” of wine retailer amounting to 28 stores, was sold by its administrators to a company called WRL, with the remaining 26 stores – including Oxford – subsequently being closed.

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