Owner Castel is selling all 18 stores outside the M25 to Spirited Wine, a business set up by Benoit Thouvenin, former Nicolas operations director. The stores will be rebadged with a yet-to-be-decided name and will sell wine from around the world.
The deal leaves Nicolas with 48 stores, three of which are earmarked for closure.
The chain’s UK managing director, Eudes Morgan, said: “Shops outside the M25 are less profitable due to higher rent, sometimes higher than our London stores.
“It is quite costly to operate a network of shops scattered around the country – the small profit being made is then spent on administrative and logistical costs.
“Finally we realised that the prospect of expansion was limited outside the M25 area without having to change our concept of French wine specialism, which has made Nicolas successful in London for the past 20 years.”?Morgan admitted that, if the estate had stayed intact, Nicolas would have had to veer from its French-only strategy.
“After three years of experience, we realise that the Nicolas concept is not enough outside the M25.
“We could have altered our concept, but we would have run the risk of losing our identity, and alienating our customers who have followed us for the past 20 years.
“In the end we decided to focus all our attention in our core market, Greater London.”?Thouvenin said the shops operated by Spirited Wine would stock “a good French selection” but with a wider European and New World range.
“That should satisfy more customers and will increase turnover,” he said. “Added to that we’ll extend our beer and spirits range.
“Major changes in the range will happen after the New Year, and we’ll try to implement it within three months.
“Our main priority will be to increase the number of customers so we will implement a more direct approach with a new website and direct marketing.”