Rhythm & Booze rescues 34 stores

A further 34 First Quench stores have been saved in a sale package to R&M Swaine, parent company of Rhythm & Booze.

It has bought 12 Wine Racks, 12 Threshers and 10 The Locals and will convert them all to its Rhythm & Booze fascia.

Managing director Martin Swaine said he remained committed to a specialist off-licence format and would not be pursuing a convenience retail model. The former Wine Rack stores will have a more up­-market wine range.

The deal has saved around 180 jobs including that of a district manager.

“I found 34 branches in good locations, with staff who really impressed me,” said Swaine. “Systems and stock are the main priorities, as well as establishing good communications with the staff.” The acquisitions will see Rhythm & Booze expand its geographic footprint from its South Yorkshire and Humberside base into Lincolnshire, North and West Yorkshire.

The group now has 72 stores with another four openings already in the pipeline.

First Quench administrator KPMG said it was still working on other deals to save small groups of stores, but the majority now seem certain to be sold off individually by property agent Christie & Co.

Administrator Ian Corfield said this could take up to six months. Christie has had 750 offers on around 700 stores it has been instructed to offload so far.

Corfield at KPMG said it was “not looking at trading after Christmas” at any remaining First Quench stores.

It’s emerged that First Quench had total tax liabilities of £23 million but administrator Ian Corfield said that “wasn’t the specific reason” for the administration.

He added that he was unaware of any financial misdeeds surrounding the pre-administration period.

“If there were any allegations of wrongdoing it would be our duty to investigate them and include them in our report [to the Department of Business Innovation & Skills],” he said.

Closing down sales began at a further 391 stores this week, with closures scheduled for December 20 at the latest, depending on stock levels.

The latest closures will bring a further 2,140 redundancies.