The Somerfield team, by far the smaller of the two, looks the more vulnerable. The wine department, led by Angela Mount until her departure in early 2007, is now under the stewardship of Claire Pell and Julie McFadden, who have consolidated to range from almost 500 lines to around 370.
The Co-op team is led by the highly respected Paul Bastard, who was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement prize at this year’s Drinks Retailing Awards.
Somerfield’s future had been in doubt since its private equity owners started sounding out potential buyers at the beginning of the year.
The Co-op, which has 4,300 UK stores and employs 85,000 staff, paid £1.57 billion for its rival, which has 900 branches.