29 June, 2007

Oddbins directors need to get back in touch with business

With regard to your "Oddbins

still Castel's priority" article

(OLN, June 15), I as an Oddbins manager have no idea what their strategy is and

their logic

is beyond me.

Why change under performing branches to Nicolas? This restricts consumer choice by selling only French wine

and no cigarettes

or beer, and having no wholesale accounts . How do they assume

they are going to gain custom by this?

One branch I know of which recently changed over is haemorrhaging customers - the customers that would call in for a bottle of Aussie red or a Pinot Grigio and a packet of fags after work have all gone. Regular customers who would buy a case or two of mixed wine - gone. Who wants just French wine?

OK, maybe a niche market exists in London - but anywhere else is a no go. People want choice - isn't that what today's society is about? As for getting rid of the wholesale - well, they made that mistake before and quickly lived to regret it .

And as for Oddbins being Castel's priority , therein lies the joke

- the company is a shambles. The drastic cutting of staff can have no possible beneficial effect ; single manning is dangerous, especially late at night and when autumn and winter come ; and none of Oddbins' shops have more than minimum security.

How do you expect to run an efficient business when one person is responsible for everything? You can't get wholesale account s together and run a shop out front - what happens

in busy periods?

And as for the Oddbins' premium wines - why would someone want to buy Castel's wine when they can buy something by a reputable producer with a better label for exactly the same price?

I wish Castel would sell. Stock levels are an embarrassment, staff morale is rock bottom and head office just seems to be making one disastrous decision after another. In my opinion they have seriously lost their way.

I do not

mean to be disloyal to a company

for which I have loved working for

a long time. But the directors really need to get back to the floor as they have no idea what the company needs.

Oddbins manager

Let's start giving potency guidelines for wines

Evidence of increased awareness of the varying potency of different wines is everywhere - certainly among consumers and now among wine retailers who are keeping an eye on possible regulation. When the alcoholic strength of wines commonly in circulation can vary between 8 and 16 per cent, this can be extremely useful information.

I have decided that I owe visitors to, and ideally readers of the FT, information on how strong each wine I recommend is. May I suggest that those printing tasting sheets and booklets

- and why not price lists? - provide the alcoholic strength of each wine?

I know there are often differences between the strength quoted on the label and the exact potency and it may be asking too much for people to provide the actual strength, but that printed on the label would be very helpful.

So, for terroiristes such as me, would providing each wine's geographical appellation.

Jancis Robinson MW

Challenge 21 - then do nothing†about it

Standing in the queue at my local Sainsbury's, I was pleased to see the checkout woman challenge a man on his age with the words: "Don't suppose you've got any ID?" She was right - he didn't.

Instead of refusing to serve him the bottle of wine, she then looked directly at me and shrugged. "I can't be bothered," she said.

I suspect the man was over 18 but under 21, but that isn't the issue. Why challenge him but not follow it up? It makes me wonder what Sainsbury's staff training policy is in this respect. The industry is under so much pressure to act responsibly. This is just the sort of behaviour that gets us a bad name.

Laurel Brown


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