What went wrong at First Quench?
“It’s very easy to talk about things with the benefit of hindsight, but the truth is that even within First Quench the core problem – the fact it didn’t have a truly differentiated approach and no real USP – is something that has been recognised for years. I suppose that recognising a problem and being able to resolve it are two different things.”
Are you concerned that suppliers are now nervous about trading with multiple specialists?
“I guess, as with most things in life, if you prove yourself to be reliable, pay on time and have good relationships you shouldn’t experience too many issues, irrespective of what befalls others in the market. One of the key advantages of the way we do business is that we maintain excellent supplier relationships, particularly through Tim [Stanley, Bargain Booze joint managing director]. We have a reputation for carrying out what we say we’ll carry out. In these troubled times we’re at least one thing that can be relied on.”
What will the multiple specialists market look like in the future?
“That’s a difficult question to answer. In many ways it seems that what we will see now is a more clearly segmented specialist market. This will be with a much clearer natural split between those that trade on the USP of product knowledge and more esoteric listings such as Majestic on the one hand and discounters such as ourselves on the other. There doesn’t seem to be so much of a place for the ‘undifferentiated’ high street off-licence. To be fair, and without meaning to be harsh, it only reflects what we’ve been saying for years – be distinct or be extinct.”
Are you interested in acquiring any of the First Quench estate?
“While I can’t comment on our own interest, I would speculate that it’s unlikely to have a single buyer, if there’s any buyer for First Quench at all, of course. To my mind it’s more likely that those parts of the business that are sold will be taken on ‘piecemeal’ by several interested parties.”