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Exclusive: Closing doors for Oddbins

Published:  10 November, 2023

Following reported mass store closures across much of its portfolio this week, Oddbins appears to have folded the bricks and mortar part of its business.

Harpers has learned from various quarters that Oddbins, the once much-loved retailer whose heyday brought wine diversity and quality to the high street, is no longer a bricks and mortar proposition.

Currently, its website remains operational. But mass closures have been reported across the company’s 15-strong portfolio in recent days. Harpers has contacted the majority of stores across London Glasgow, Edinburgh and Liverpool by phone and has been unable to reach anyone, with many lines disconnected.

In recent weeks, it seemed Oddbins might have been saved from its recent bout of financial troubles with the sale of its remaining stores, which once totalled in the hundreds.

However, employees, managers and customers alike have been raising a glass to their local stores online this week, following reports that many store floors have been cleared and stripped. Previously, stores were widely known to have been running down stocks with 20% off sales operating in many outlets.

Louis Gwinn, assistant manager at the store in West Dulwich confirmed on Tuesday via Tom Cannavan’s Wine Pages forum, that “We closed our doors yesterday for the final time”.

“What a deeply sad bit of news,” another commentator said. “Oddbins holds a fond place in my heart due to the great experiences with super enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff, some slightly eccentric offerings and a significant part of my wine journey.”

Balbir Chatha, the company's director, appeared to confirm the situation. This morning, he told Harpers that “Wine Retail took over the Oddbins estate from the administrators whilst they were closed over the first Covid lockdown. On reopening we found it difficult to regain the same level of trading due to the significantly reduced footfall from office workers and commuters.

"The change in the buying habits of customers during the lockdown has been difficult to reverse. We have invested heavily over the last two years but things did not work out to plan. We were hampered by lack of credit leading to pressure on our cash flow along with the increased costs of trading from traditional bricks and mortar sites.

"We are trying to pay back the loyalty of the suppliers that did support us by shifting to an online presence.”

Oddbins was established as an off-licence retail chain in 1963 by founder Ahmed Pochee.

At its height, the company had 278 locations across the UK, having become known as the place to find oddities and interesting wines which often inspired life-long love affairs with the category.

The past decade has been fraught, however. In early 2011 Oddbins closed a third of its branches, while European Food Brokers (EFB) group, bought 37 of the shops. The remaining 48 shops were closed by administrators.

In February 2019, Oddbins once again floundered and went into administration.

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