Roger Whiteside, chief executive of Thresher Group, has outlined plans for the 200 stores it has bought from Unwins.
In an interview with The Grocer, Whiteside said all the stores were trading but would retain the Unwins fascia for at least three months. The purchase means 1,200 of the 1,800 staff made redundant after Unwins stopped trading now have jobs.
Half the stores, acquired by Thresher on December 22, opened six days later. The rest opened this week. “When we bought them they had no staff or stock,” said Whiteside. “We rang the managers straight away. Fortunately most of them, and their staff, wanted to come back. We quickly set up supply lines.”
He said the company was still debating which of its three brands - The Local, Wine Rack or Thresher - would be used for each store. The process would take three to six months, he said. Thresher Group is understood to be investigating the purchase of additional Unwins stores.
“We deliberately avoided stores which would cause us to restructure our
existing estate,” said Whiteside.
He said the way the stores had been trading was not a fair reflection of their potential.
A spokeswoman for KPMG, the administrator appointed for Unwins on December 20, said it had already received massive interest in the remaining 181 Unwins stores. As The Grocer went to press, a further announcement was expected. Wholesaler Whitall Wines and Wine Cellar are among the interested parties.
The Phillips Newman retail concept, unveiled by Unwins in May 2004, has been scrapped, along with the main Unwins chain. KPMG said it planned to produce a preliminary report on the company in six weeks. After that it would convene a meeting with creditors and submit a private report in June on how Unwins was managed.
Phillip Cook, chairman of DM Private Equity, which bought the Unwins chain in March, has refused to comment, although the company has threatened legal action against the former directors of Unwins, its auditors and 84 shareholders.
It claims it was given an over-inflated idea of the net assets when it bought it. It said it only discovered this in December.
Sonya Hook & Rod Addy