Up to half of the 1,400-strong Threshers store estate could be bought by independent off-licences, it has been claimed.

Property agent Christie & Co has received "reasonable" offers on more than 650 stores, most of which were from bidders who wanted to run them as off-licences. It had now passed the offers on to KPMG, the administrator of First Quench Retailing.

"We had more than 3,000 offers and have selected offers on 650 stores that we consider to be reasonable," said a spokesman for Christie. "We believe the majority of these will stay as off-licences."

The offers selected by Christie include bids from more than 50 former Threshers franchisees. A previous joint bid to buy the franchise arm of the Threshers business submitted by the 88 franchised storeholders had been rejected by KPMG, but many franchisees had now put in individual bids to buy the stores they had run.

The franchisees owe First Quench Retailing money for stock and are understood to be using this as a bargaining tool.

"I am hopeful most of the individual transactions will be completed by mid-February," said Geoffrey Sturgess, a partner at Blake Lapthorn, which is advising the franchisees.

"Between them the franchisees will have 'rescued' more FQR stores than anyone else."

KPMG has already sold 98 of the leases to bulk bidders, including 34 to northern off-licence chain Rhythm & Booze, 13 to Venus Wine and Spirits and 14 to Wickham Vineyards.

Rhythm & Booze managing director Martin Swaine said the collapse of FQR was a massive opportunity for independent off-licences. "But there is still a very bright future for regional off-licences that can keep their costs down by delivering locally, not nationally," said Swaine.

KPMG is to hand the keys to 480 of the Threshers stores back to landlords. These could still become a target for independent off-licences and c-stores if the leases were renegotiated, said industry insiders.