The convenience store chain Costcutter is expected to join off-licence operators Rhythm & Booze, Bargain Booze and EFB Retail in bidding for substantial parcels of First Quench Retailing's (FQR) store estate today, following its collapse into administration last month.
The four parties are set to inform the administrator KPMG that they are interested in acquiring chunks of FQR's 1,200 stores, which include Threshers, Wine Rack, Haddows, The Local, Victoria Wine and Bottoms Up.
It is thought that one party is interested in up to 300 stores in England and Wales, while another trade buyer wants to purchase about 190 stores in Scotland, in the first-round bids.
KPMG is keen to wrap up a sale as a going concern – albeit with a radically reduced store estate – in the next two weeks. This is largely because KPMG wants to sell the business while the stores still have adequate stock.
Stores bereft of products will be far less attractive to potential purchasers, as they would have to stump up huge sums to restock them. Another major barrier to the sale is the withdrawal of trade credit insurance to FQR, which has hampered its deliveries to shops this year.
As a letter dated 10 November, and seen by The Independent, shows, First Quench is still hamstrung by distribution problems.
Ian Corfield, KPMG's joint administrator, says: "We are working on the basis that the issues as regards the distribution centre may not be resolved in the near term."
The operators of Rhythm & Booze, Bargain Booze and EFB Retail, which all declined to comment, are keen to bolster their store portfolio. EFB Retail bought 109 stores from Wine Cellar in October after it had collapsed into administration.
The interest of Costcutter, which has 1,500 convenience stores, comes despite rival Nisa-Today's publicly ruling itself out last night. Neil Turton, the chief executive of Nisa-Today's, said: "We are absolutely not interested. In the main, the stores are not big enough." KPMG has already announced the closure of 373 stores and more than 100 head-office redundancies.
The franchisees of Threshers, who are being advised by the law firm Blake Lapthorn, are also considering collectively buying the franchise estate. Given the distribution problems, KPMG, which declined to comment, has told the 65 franchisees to continue sourcing stock from other suppliers. Despite this, KPMG has told them they will still have to pay the management-service fee – equal to up to 5 per cent of the sales that go through tills – as they still receive other services, such as head-office functions and branding. Greggs, the bakery chain, is also eyeing about 100 of FQR's stores.Reuse content