Castel puts up umbrella

27 July, 2007

Estate restructure will result in merger of Nicolas and Oddbins under single head office in London

Castel will run Oddbins and Nicolas as "two brands under one umbrella" once it finishes its estate restructure.

"As a business, it will become almost as Thresher runs Wine Rack," Oddbins' sales director Andy Gadsby told OLN.

Castel is in the middle of a programme to convert 50 Oddbins shops to the French-focused Nicolas fascia by the end of 2008.

Once complete, Castel's UK business will consist of around 160 Oddbins and 80 Nicolas branches. At that point, Gadsby said, the head office functions will be merged and based at Wimbledon. Discussions about whether sales teams will be merged are ongoing.

Gadsby said that, while he understood the frustrations of affected Oddbins staff, "we had to do something fairly radical for the business - it's change or die time".

Oddbins stores in key areas including Bath, Winchester and London's Mayfair have been converted to the Nicolas format. When asked if this had been the right move, Gadsby admitted that the policy had not necessarily worked in all locations and stores in these areas would be looked at with an open mind.

Those Oddbins stores earmarked for closure could be saved if staff manage to reverse their fortunes, Gadsby added. "I said to them that if you can turn the shop around and make it profitable by 2008 then we might reconsider." He said some transferred branches could be switched back to the Oddbins format if the conversion to Nicolas is not a success.

Castel will also look for more shops for both brands in 2008, Gadsby added.

Responding to questions about the trade's nostalgia for the quirkiness of Oddbins shops, Gadsby said: "We lost millions of pounds last year and obviously that's unacceptable. But the past is the past - and now every manager and employee must try to make a success of it."

Gadsby also said that Oddbins' pricing strategy will continue to focus on "value for money and honest pricing with no BOGOFs".

Gadsby is embarking on a tour of Oddbins' estate and will speak to every shop manager, over the next six weeks. "My job is to make every store profitable," he said.

Gadsby has just introduced 40 new premium Bordeaux and Burgundy wines to Oddbins. "They have been enormously successful," he said. Oddbins' staff are also being encouraged to highlight mid-priced wines to customers.

Oddbins is planning to open another shop in the Glasgow area during the next few months.

Andy Gadsby interview - page 11.

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