Unwins is being targeted by opportunistic robbers who have picked up on press reports of the disarray in stores.
Sources close to the troubled retailer said robberies had increased since articles in the local and national press suggested managers were holding on to daily takings for auditors to collect.
At the Brighton Road outlet in Horsham, West Sussex, two men punched an employee and brandished a knife. They made off with a cash drawer.
A company insider claimed employee morale was so low that incidences of staff theft had also greatly increased. Further reports suggest shop staff are quitting because they are so disillusioned with performance.
“You may as well go to the supermarket down the road,” said one store manager. “They have a full range and they are much cheaper than us anyway.
“We don’t need more than one person working in the shop at a time because there’s nothing to sell,” he added.
Some shops have taken to displaying empty boxes on
shelves to make them look better stocked, he claimed.
However, the off-licence chain this week rounded on critics, claiming that its problems were only temporary. It said stores were only surrendering cash directly to auditors until the roll out of SAP tills across the estate is completed by the middle of this month.
Responding to store managers’ complaints of low stocks, Unwins chairman Phillip Cook said: “We have already indicated we would, from November 1, implement a revised range of 319 products to the stores. We had planned for October to be a low stock month to run down lines before installing our new range.”
Distribution changes meant imports were being channelled through a bond store, something about which store managers could be unaware, he said.
Regarding suppliers’ claims that they were refusing to deliver because of unpaid invoices, Unwins said its nine core suppliers continued to back it.
Meanwhile, Unwins has clinched a deal with March Networks of the US to install digital video surveillance in stores, which eliminate the need for staff to supervise videotape.
Rod Addy