One year after the company behind the Threshers chain collapsed into administration, fewer than a third of the stores are trading as off-licences.
KPMG, the accountant which acted as administrator for First Quench, said off-licence operators had taken on fewer than 400 of the group's 1,400 shops.
The pitifully low level of interest lays bare not only the scale of the shrinking off-licence sector – which has taken a beating from the supermarkets – but also the continuing dearth of general demand for high-street units.
It is also an indictment of the attractiveness of the locations of First Quench, which also operated The Local, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up, Victoria Wine and Haddows stores.
Richard Fleming, the UK head of restructuring at KPMG, said: "The outcome for the First Quench store portfolio holds a magnifying glass to the state of the British high street: only a third of the stores are now trading as off-licences. Moreover, the stores are being operated by individual businesses or in small clusters of regional businesses, showing how the standalone off-licence trade model is in decline as a big national business."
Of First Quench's 1,400 shops in England, Scotland and Wales, KPMG managed to sell 100 on a going-concern basis to off-licence operators, while 300 leases were also assigned to other firms, primarily small off-licence businesses. One thousand stores were handed back to landlords.