Threshers franchisees moved a step closer to owning their own stores after the administrator of the First Quench Retailing estate backed down over the sale of the leaseholds.

Administrator KPMG had been asking for £10,000 for the sale of each of the head leases to 43 former franchisees who wanted to run their own store following the collapse of FQR.

But an independent valuation by the franchisees claimed most head leases were worth less than £10,000 or even worthless.

Only six former franchisees have offered the full price for the stores with some offering as little as £1 or refusing to make an offer. Following weeks of negotiations between KPMG and Blake Lapthorn, the solicitors acting on behalf of the franchisees, the administrator has now agreed to surrender the head leases of these stores to the landlords. This will allow the former franchisees to negotiate new terms with the landlord in the hope that they can carry on trading as independent businesses.

"We view KPMG's decision to surrender the head leases as being a sensible method of 'rescuing' stores," said Geoffrey Sturgess of Blake Lapthorn. "Landlords should be delighted at the opportunity of having a solvent tenant."

Meanwhile, Venus Wine & Spirit Merchants, which bought the Wine Rack fascia and 13 stores from KPMG, has announced plans to expand with a planned 25 stores trading under the fascia by the end of the year.