BrandInvestGroup, set up this year, has spent over £1m opening the 15 stores in Scotland under its two new fascias, Winehouse and Cellar No 1. It plans to open six more in the next month.
BIG owners Philip Craig and George MacRitchie last year tried to buy all 254 stores held in Scotland by First Quench Retailing but failed to strike a deal with administrator KPMG. It had negotiated the leases for its 21 stores from landlords after KPMG failed to find a buyer.
Despite the malaise in the off-licence sector, BIG said it was confident it could succeed where FQR had failed. "There is still a good future for off-licences in Scotland as long as they have a strong point of difference from the supermarkets," said Craig.
"There are clearly gaps within the Scottish market that we can fill. We will give our managers autonomy to run their shops to suit the local market head office will listen and not dictate. I know the Scottish market well and we have feet on the ground here."
Craig plans to use his 20 years of experience working for leading drinks brands to help BIG forge close relationships with brand owners. "We will work with suppliers to get brand messages across," he said. "I understand brands, which gives us a point of difference. We can speak directly to consumers, do tastings and up-sell certain brands that we stock. I think brand owners have neglected the sector over the years and the sector has not understood brand building and has tried to compete with the supermarkets."
The Cellar No 1 fascia will be a mainstream off-licence while the more upmarket Winehouse will focus on unusual brands of wine.
BIG does not own its own supply chain and is not in a buying group. It uses a bonded warehouse to store goods and a third-party logistics supplier to deliver to stores, and deals directly with suppliers and wholesalers.