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Bargain Booze is still trading, despite parent company Conviviality falling into administration this week

Conviviality Retail franchisees are in the dark over the future of the business, as talks with potential buyers remain ongoing.

Despite parent company Conviviality falling into administration this week, the retail business - comprising the Bargain Booze, Central Convenience, Wine Rack and Select Convenience fascias - continued to trade as a going concern, as The Grocer went to press on Thursday. Conviviality and PwC, its financial advisers and the administrators of Conviviality plc, and investor relations firm FTI Consulting, both declined to comment.

Franchisees were similarly unclear as to what was going on, as Conviviality stock dwindled. “I’ve not heard anything from them in a week,” said a leading multiple franchisee. “The only information I’m getting is from Conviviality’s RNS feed and the press.”

While franchisees are still bound by their contracts as long as Conviviality is a going concern - forcing them to top up at other wholesalers - a rival symbol operator claimed to have picked up contracts with 15 Bargain Booze retailers in just two weeks, “all of whom own their own property or hold their own lease”.

A potential sale of the retail business has been complicated by both the large number of company-owned stores, and the fact that an even greater number of franchisees own the business, and run the stores, but with Conviviality owning the head lease, as landlords saw this arrangement as safer.

The symbol source added that it was hard to put a value on the business. “My gut feeling is they will go into administration but would anybody buy it? I’m sure somebody would like the trademarks and I’m sure somebody would potentially like some of what they’ve got to sell, but there will be a big tail of off-licences that none of us are going to want.”

Conviviality’s on-trade drinks division - including Matthew Clark, Bibendum and Peppermint, was sold to Magners owner C&C on Wednesday for a “nominal fee” understood to be £1. C&C’s shares rose over 10% to £2.95 this week on news of the deal.