Oddbins' charm sacrificed for corporate uniformity

06 April, 2007

I read with interest the article and reply about the current situation regarding Oddbins, Nicolas and Castel (OLN, March 9 and 23). A few topics were not covered and a new development has occurred since the reply. Firstly, and probably most importantly, the buying department has been restructured. Castel ha s taken total control of buying in Europe, using a Paris-based team .

I'm not saying that Nicolas doesn't have a great range of French wines, many of which we could sell if we were allowed to stock them but, unlike the days when John Ratcliffe and Steve Daniel were in control of buying, we are unlikely to get the interesting small parcels that our customers (and staff) loved.

My branch has been held back by being unable to order the stock required since well before Christmas, due to it being out of stock in the warehouse. The ordering by the buying department is nothing short of a shambles. Only last month we found out that we 'd had little or no South American wine available for several months because nobody knew who should be ordering it.

Gone are the days of Oddbins being slightly quirky, off-the-wall Wine Merchant of the Year whenever it remembered to send in the entry form.

The suits in charge now want a uniformity and corporate image, whereas the charm of Oddbins was that every shop had its own idiosyncrasies, which was its corporate image. Every store was customised to its customers.

Now we get told how to dress, how to answer the phone and what is acceptable music, as if we are children, even though many of us have much more experience than the people handing down the diktats.

I am sorry to be leaving Oddbins, as I have had many years of hard work and fun, but it is no longer the company I was working for 20 years ago, nor a company I wish to work for.

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