Managing director Ayo Akintola aims to see a resurgence of Oddbins across the country and this could be the first of a number of similar deals to buy out smaller chains.
The 20 stores were originally part of the Oddbins estate until 2008, when French owner Castel split the group in two. It kept the best-performing stores and added them to the Nicolas chain, selling the Oddbins name and the rest of the stores to Simon Baile. Oddbins went into administration in 2011, but European Food Brokers paid Baile £4 million to rescue 37 stores from the brink and keep the chain going.
Last November Akintola revealed to OLN that he planned to return the group to a 300-store empire.
The purchase of the 20 Nicolas stores represents the first move in a strategy that includes opening the business up to franchisees for the first time in its history to operate alongside its managed shops.
Castel held on to the Nicolas chain until 2012 when it entered into a deal with Spirited Wines, owned by its former operations director, Benoit Thouvenin.
In November we reported that Thouvenin had been forced to sell off 14 stores, blaming rents hikes and increased competition.
Now that Oddbins has bought 20 stores, Thouvenin is left with an estate of 19 shops, some of which will retain the Nicolas name while others will trade as Spirited Wines.
The first shop to be converted from a Nicolas back to an Oddbins is in Kew, west London, which was the UK’s first ever Nicolas store.
A senior trade figure said: “It’s great to see Oddbins coming back and there’s no doubt room for some kind of expansion, which is good news for the high street and suppliers.
“The shops are looking good, too, which is really important, and it’s great to see Kew back as it was always a quintessential Oddbins branch.
“Oddbins is coming back out of the dark ages. I’m impressed with the range, which is more creative, and also the fact it is trying to do things differently and bring some of the fun back.”