Holter on the loose

15 June, 2007

Has new Thresher owner got the Vision to develop interesting ideas?

Thresher's new owners presumably know what they've bought - though given the recent history of off-licence takeovers, this may not necessarily be a fair conclusion to draw just yet.

But let's take it as read that Vision Capital's due diligence was indeed diligent. It ought to know the scale of the problems facing multiple specialists; hopefully it will soon recognise, if it hasn't already, that Thresher has a pretty effective management team which has already made some big changes and deserves the chance to develop more ideas.

Thresher's Leapingsalmon venture was scorned in many quarters, and clearly the formula didn't quite work. But there are people who believe that "premium convenience" is still territory that Thresher might usefully explore, and a combination of good wine with some sort of food offering might yet be the basis of a winning strategy.

I'd say it was worth taking another look at this. Arguably Threshers+Food was ahead of its time; probably it suffered from poor execution and the wrong product mix (since when has wine gone with sandwiches?).

If Vision Capital does get a reward from its investment, it will come from investigating some unlikely avenues - some of which will turn out to be cul-de-sacs. There are probably no quick fixes, and I hope Vision allows its management the luxury of the occasional failure in pursuit of profitablity.

Dawn of the yawn

The packaging for Oddbins' new Selection range of French wines looks clean and classy. That is a euphe mism for dull, by the way. Oddbins used to lead the field with quirky innovation. What a shame that Castel plays such a straight bat with its marketing for the chain. A lot of us miss the maverick humour.

Summit worth talking about

I enjoyed my 20 minutes on the Drinksummit platform that was so ably occupied by the likes of Gaymer's John Mills and Today's John Baines.

I used part of my allotted time to draw attention to the work OLN has been conducting with Wines of Chile, studying the booming independent wine merchants sector. How is it that these specialists are achieving an average price of £7.24 while the market struggles on at £4.10?

There are lessons to be learned by even the most modest retailers. Regular tastings of interesting wines are a must, and retailers must resist the temptation to base their range on the top 20 brands. To do so would be to effectively rob themselves of any Chablis, Sancerre and Bordeaux, and leave them with little (if any) Pinot Noir, Albari ño or Riesling, to name but three acclaimed varieties bursting with profit potential.

Some independents seem to have made a specialism of catering for every conceivable fetish with their range of porn magazines. Apply the same category management techniques to their wine selection and they'd be halfway there.

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English wine: a happy harvest for Christmas

All across England and Wales, vineyards are being harvested. Down winding country lanes come armies of welly-wearing conscripts wielding secateurs and buckets, ready to reap the rewards of our vines. Happily they come, their cheeks ruddy with pride. Half an hour later they’re crawling over muddy clods with lacerated hands, drenched in claggy juice and cold sweat, as if ploughing through an endurance race.

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