OFF-LICENCE chain Threshers, which bought 200 sites earlier this year from its collapsed rival Unwins, is set to announce a major review of its Scottish operations, which trade under the Haddows and Victoria Wine brands.
Officials from the parent Threshergroup, which is the UK's biggest independent specialist drinks retailer, will tell staff today that the review will take two months and might end in a sale of the business in Scotland, sources told The Scotsman.
South of the Border, the group trades as Threshers Wine Shop, The Local and Wine Rack brands, and the company is now planning to rebrand all its outlets as Threshers.
Scottish staff will be told that various options are being considered, including a rebranding of the brands and a possible IPO of the Scottish operation. But the sources said the most likely path would be a sale of Haddows and Victoria Wine.
Thresher employs 1,400 staff in 254 stores in some prime city and town centre sites throughout Scotland. The Scottish operations include 126 Haddows and 128 wine stores, most of which are branded Victoria Wine but there are also some Bottoms Up, Thresher Wine Shop and Locals branded stores.
The Haddows brand especially has strong Scottish roots. The first store was opened in Largs by the Haddows family, which grew the business to 147 sites across Scotland before selling the business to Allied Brewers in 1986.
The first Victoria Wine store was opened in London in 1865 by William Hughes, who grew the business to 250 stores before it was sold to Allied Brewers in 1959.
In January, Threshers bought 200 Unwins sites and rebranded them under the Threshers name.
That deal, completed for an undisclosed fee, came less than four days after HSBC, Unwins's main creditor, lost patience with attempts to rescue the firm and called in administrators.
In total, 350 Unwins's stores were closed with debts of at least 30 million and the loss of over 1,000 jobs.
Alcohol consumption in the home is expected to rise in Scotland in the wake of the smoking ban, as off-licences and super-markets prepare for a surge in sales for takeaways, as consumers will be unable to smoke in bars and restaurants.
Off-licence sales soared by 13 per cent following the smoking ban in Ireland two years ago and traders, including Thresher, have been predicting that a similar rise will be seen in Scotland.
Threshergroup owns about 2,000 shops and employ over 12,000 people across the UK. It claims that half the UK's population live within ten minutes' walk from one of its stores.