The administrator of First Quench Retailing, which ran Threshers, The Local and Wine Rack stores, is to hand the keys back to the landlords of 480 Threshers stores.

KPMG had appointed property agent Christie & Co to sell the stores, but it was unable to find new buyers for the leaseholds of 480 of the 1,400 stores.

One off-licence boss told The Grocer that the rents of many of the FQR estate were too high and landlords would have to renegotiate them to have any chance of finding a tenant.

"Some of the landlords will be left seriously out of pocket," he said. "Many paid too much for the stores as part of a sale-or-leaseback agreement on the understanding Threshers would be able to pay the rent and would be around forever. But now they can't find anyone able to pay the rents the stores were saddled with."

KPMG has had limited success in selling the leaseholds since it took over as administrator in October.

It sold just 98 stores to bulk buyers and passed the rest to Christie & Co for individual sale.

Christie & Co said it had now received realistic offers for about 550 of the sites, which had been passed to KPMG for consideration. It was still hopeful of attracting offers on a further 250 stores, it added.

Meanwhile, the Threshers, Bottoms Up, The Local and Victoria Wine brands are set to live on after Midlands-based SEP Properties bought the rights to use them. It plans to launch Threshers as an online off-licence and is considering franchising the other brands in a system similar to that operated by Bargain Booze.

The rights to the Wine Rack brand name had previously been bought by London-based Venus Wine and Spirits.

Spar retailer Tates the company-owned stores division of AF Blakemore & Son last week snapped up eight of the stores.

A report by administrators issued last week revealed that FQR owed millions of pounds to creditors, with Diageo alone owed £2m.

Read more
First Quench owes £2m to Diageo - and £14m to taxman (4 January 2010)
The Thresher chest (19 December 2009)