• Retailer faces uncertain future
  • Consultancy group to advise on options
  • MD hails success in cutting losses

Oddbins has recruited a business consultancy group to examine its strategic options, just-drinks can reveal.

A lack of available cash, poor trading over Christmas and a court dispute with the group's previous owner, Castel Freres, are threatening to derail the UK wine retailer's revival, sources familiar with the situation have told just-drinks.

Oddbins' managing director, Simon Baile, confirmed to just-drinks today (2 March) that the retailer is examining its future. "We are aware of certain rumours circulating about Oddbins," he said.

"As the current retail environment continues to be challenging, we have recently engaged Spectrum Corporate Finance to advise us on strategic options," he added.

Oddbins' troubles again highlight the struggle facing independent wine retailers in the UK, where the four biggest multiple retailers account for more than three quarters of wine sales. In 2009, Oddbins rival First Quench Retailing, the owner of Threshers and Wine Rack stores, collapsed into administration.

Simon Baile, who is the son of Oddbins founder Nick Baile, bought the business in August 2008 from Castel Freres, the French owner of Nicolas wine stores and one of the world's largest wine merchants. just-drinks understands that a significant factor in Oddbins' current financial situation is a dispute over money owed as part of that deal.

Baile said: "Since we took over the company in 2008, the business has been transformed and during 2010 we saw our footfall increase significantly for the first time in many years, added to which we have seen strong growth in average spend and Oddbins average bottle price is now the highest of the high street multipes."

Oddbins losses shrank from GBP10m (US$16.3m) in 2007 to GBP4.5m in 2009, according to accounts filed at Companies House. Accounts for 2010 are not yet available.

Since publishing this story, just-drinks has published a new story on Oddbins. To read it, click here.