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Published:  23 July, 2008

In a move whose abruptness has shocked the trade, Unwins has made more than one hundred members of staff redundant, including its marketing director and the entire wine buying team. This amounts to a third of the workforce at head office. The major internal restructuring programme' was announced on 5 February, although the possibility of redundancies at the Dartford head office had been flagged to staff two weeks previously. The period of consultation ended on 11 February and the exact number of redundancies should become clear by the end of the month. High profile casualties include Bill Rolfe, marketing and PR director; Gerald Duff, wine buying director; and Frank Caufield, administrative director. The four members of the Wetz family employed by Unwins (Christopher, David, Simon and Philip) have kept their jobs. Joint managing director Philip Wetz told Harpers that the redundancies are part of a restructuring and rationalisation programme that started in July 2001. It's a difficult market and we realised we had to review the way we did things. We intend to concentrate on our core competence in future, which is retailing.' Following the redundancies, purchasing responsibilities will be handled by Richard Vaughan, who was previously non-wine buying director and now becomes buying director. With the departure of Bob Maybank, Ian Florey, Duff and Rolfe, Unwins is left without a wine specialist. Wetz said: We've got an alternative buying team in place who are more than competent enough to buy wine, even though they haven't been wine buyers in the past. Richard used to head up our agency division.' The other two members of the non-wine buying team, Michael Hoverd and Christine Glosby, who was a secretary until a month ago, have been retained by the company. The rumour in the trade is that Unwins was forced to make changes by its bankers against a loss of 1.2 million last year. There is also talk of a family feud following the recent death of Michael A Wetz, who was seen as a unifying figure. With no experienced wine buying or marketing team remaining, at least one supplier has expressed reservations about the future. We're doing a double take about whether the next orders should be dispatched,' he said. Asked if Unwins plans to close more shops, Wetz said, We will look at the tail of the business,' but added that the 38 closures announced last year have not yet been completed. Unwins currently has 438 shops.