Oddbins’ managing director Simon Baile has vowed to make the once-struggling chain “not the biggest, but the best national wine retailer”.
The pledge came as Oddbins reported its longest sustained period of growth since 2004 and introduced sampling machines in some stores to allow customers to try before they buy.
Baile said the past year had seen “double-digit retail sales growth and a consistent increase in footfall at more than 5%”. Average basket spend was up 8%.
Oddbins is yet to return to the black but Baile predicted it would do so by the end of the current financial year. The company lost £6.4 million in the year before the acquisition from Castel in August 2008.
“We’ve still got a lot of work to do, but we have to be relentless,” he said. “Our target for this year is to see if we can get over the finishing line. We think we can do it.”
Spanish wine sales were up 68.3% in the past 10 weeks, with Italy 15.3% ahead, France up 18.6% and Champagne increasing by 12.5%.
“My focus is to be at the forefront of the industry in terms of opinion-setters. That’s where Oddbins’ place is, not to be the biggest, but to be the best national wine retailer,” he told OLN.
He said the high street was a “great place to sell wine” after the collapse of First Quench. “There are now very clear, distinct lines of difference between the different operators,” he said.
“We have a much clearer position and £50 million of sales have disappeared in terms of competition – it’s a fantastic opportunity.”
Baile admitted Oddbins’ online sales were “a long way behind our competitors”, but revealed plans to roll out a new website in the second half of the year.
“Our intention is to invest in that and make it a much more significant part of our business. We are pushing for a 50% increase in online sales this year.”
In the past 10 weeks, online sales increased by 38%.
Oddbins is also piloting a scheme that will see sampling machines – which the company will call Odd Pods – installed in stores to encourage customers to try wine ahead of purchase.
Samples will be free, unlike in some independents.
If the trial in five stores is successful, it will be rolled out across the entire estate.
“We are going to look over a couple of months to see what the effect is. It could significantly add to our sales – we will measure the performance,” Baile said.