Threshers throws in towel at its food-and-wine stores

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The Independent Online

A much-hyped move into fresh food by off-licence chain Threshers has been ditched after less than a year.

A much-hyped move into fresh food by off-licence chain Threshers has been ditched after less than a year.

The chain, owned by Guy Hands's Terra Firma Capital Partners, will stop selling food at 75 specially launched Threshers + Food shops by the end of the month. It is also understood to be seeking a buyer for leapingsalmon, the online gourmet meal provider bought in July 2003 for around £5m.

The leapingsalmon brand was used to launch the food-and-wine stores the following year. At the time, Threshers said this was in response to growing competition from supermarkets and customer demand.

But sales have failed to match expectations. Its chief executive, Roger Whiteside, said: "Threshers + Food, while attracting an enthusiastic following from a section of our customers, has not achieved the sales volume needed to support a fresh food offer of this quality."

The stores will revert to the Threshers name or be rebranded as specialist wine shops. The group said it no longer had plans for leaping- salmon and that it had received a number of expressions of interest.

Threshers, which has around 2,000 shops across the country, will now focus on its core drinks offering, including launching a specialist wine chain later this year.

It will, however, continue selling convenience food at its neighbourhood brand, The Local.

Threshers was bought by Nomura Principal Finance, set up by financier Mr Hands for £225m just over four years ago. Nomura Principal Finance was later spun out as Terra Firma.

Mr Whiteside, a former head of food at Marks & Spencer, is striving to turn the group around and fend off growing competition. It suffered a 13 per cent slide in sales to £802m in the most recent financial year, while pre-tax losses widened by 31 per cent to £36.4m.

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