The news that Oddbins has applied to go into administration will not come as a surprise to many. Over the past few years a number of multiple off licences have disappeared from the high street including Unwins and Threshers. The availability of low cost alcohol and multi buy deals in supermarkets combined with the convenience of picking up alcohol as part of the weekly shop means that off licences are struggling to compete.
The internet is also changing the way consumers shop for alcohol. Sites such as www.nakedwines.com, www.everywine.co.uk (owned by Booths) and www.slurp.co.uk offer a wide range of wines, considerably greater than can be stored in either an off licence or supermarket. Everywine claims to be the largest internet wine warehouse with 38,000 wines to buy. With the predicted growth in on line shopping it is probable that the number of on line off licences will increase, meaning that those off licences on the high street will need to keep up to speed with internet deliveries.
However, it is not all negative news surrounding off licenses. Majestic Wine reported strong Christmas trading – like for like sales of 3.7%, suggesting it is bucking the negative trend. Indeed, it is likely to be the case that as off licences continues to close a successful operator will be able to benefit from these closures and pick up trade. In order for off licences to be successful they need a point of difference from the supermarkets. It is unlikely they will be able to compete on price and consequently specialism’s and knowledge become more important, as does making shops more localised and able to react to local requests. Events such as wine tastings are an interesting way of gaining a presence within a community and driving revenue. Independent off licences can offer a localised service and it maybe the case that with the closure of multiple off licences, independents are given an opportunity to shine.