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Thresher's focus ousts Victoria Wines

Published:  23 July, 2008

Claim of no "mass closures", First Quench's ill-starred venture into e-tailing, is to cease trading with "immediate effect" after 16 months'. The decision is part of a wide-ranging "turnaround plan" introduced this week by new chief executive, David Williams, which will include a 9 million investment in First Quench's retail business and IT infrastructure and the disappearance of the Victoria Wine fascia in England and Wales (as predicted in Harpers, print edition, 16 February). Williams's plan is to focus on the Thresher Wine Shop brand. The majority of Victoria Wine sites will be converted into Threshers, although the Victoria Wine and Haddows brands will be retained in Scotland, where both have a strong consumer following. The remaining Martha's Vineyard in Barnet will be converted into a Bottoms Up. There will be a number of casualties, although Williams stressed that there will be no "mass closures". The aim is to have a chain of more than 2000 Thresher Wine Shops. Wine Rack and Bottoms Up will continue as they are for the time being, but may be amalgamated in the future. First Quench has also announced changes to its management team. Mark Turner (managing director, property), Philip Sellwood (managing director, commercial) and Steve Headington (managing director, retail operations) have all joined First Quench, while as of last week Ralph Hayward, Mike Campbell and Brian Wisdom have left the company. Turner will head up a new Property Unit, which will concentrate on "augmenting First Quench's assets and limiting its liabilities". He was previously a consultant to both Victoria Wine and Thresher. "First Quench has a marvellous opportunity to consolidate its leadership of the specialist off-licence market," commented Williams. "The moves we are announcing underline our determination to both invest in the business and take the necessary action to ensure that the management team focuses on the immensely valuable branded estate."