Unwins has collapsed with the loss of 1,400 jobs and the closure of all its 350 stores – and bitter accusations of bad accounting.
In the final act of a drama that seemed as inevitable as classical tragedy, administrators KPMG formally declared the drinks chain, which dates back to 1843, bankrupt late on Monday.
KPMG explicitly laid part of the blame for Unwins’ demise on competition from the supermarkets. Tesco and Sainsbury’s between them control 50% of the retail drinks market in the UK.
‘Unwins has suffered, like other off-licence chains, from increased competition from supermarkets, and tight margins,’ joint administrator Myles Halley said.
Rising costs and consumer slowdown on spending have also made their effects felt.
The decision to close the chain came after an eleventh-hour attempt to find a partner, with Castel, Threshers and other prominent names mentioned as possible suitors.
In a final twist, owners DM Private Equity have announced their intention to sue Unwins’ former directors, shareholders and auditors. DMPE claims it has discovered a discrepancy of £13.2m in the firms accounts.
In a statement DMPE said it had discovered ‘gross accounting mistreatments and errors’.
It said it intended to take legal action ‘to seek full restitution and damages resulting from its acquistion of the Unwins Wine Group Ltd and its subsidiaries’ against the former owners the Wetz family, its former auditors Grant Thornton, and former directors including chairman Michael Lunn and finance director Tim Gerhart.
Written by Adam Lechmere, and agencies