Off-license chain Oddbins has entered administration leaving 103 stores and 550 jobs at risk.
The organisation’s parent company European Food Brokers (EFB) had called in administrators Duff & Phelps earlier in the week before formally announcing the move on 1 February. The administrators will now oversee the sale or closure of the stores, which currently remain open.
The portfolio of stores includes 45 Oddbins locations, 56 Wine Cellar Trading and Whittals Wine Merchants and two convenience stores. The parent company’s drinks distribution business is not affected.
Of the Oddbins stores, 29 London are in London, seven in the rest of England and the remaining nine in Scotland.
Joint administrator Phil Duffy blamed a range of factors for the retailer’s financial troubles including declining consumer spending, rising wages, business rates, Brexit, rents and inflation.
A leaked email from EFB directors to their staff sent earlier in the week said it had been an “extremely tough” Christmas and said the average store had experienced a 17.8% rent rise. “There will be job losses in the near future,” the letter warned.
The news follows a tumultuous year for the company’s leading figure – Rajinder Singh Chatha. Despite having resigned from the company on 15 February 2018, it was claimed that he had previously retained control of the business through a series of intermediary companies based in the Isle of Man, where he lives.
A tax tribunal in 2018 said that Rajinder Chatha had been "intentionally misleading about some of the explicit lies that the tribunal has found were told to HMRC”. It concluded that he was “not fit and proper” to be allowed to sell or distribute duty suspended alcohol – as previously practiced by European Food Broker’s distribution arm.
In July of the same year, 48-year-old Chatha was also found guilty of driving while under the influence of alcohol.
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