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Customers choose the prices as Oddbins relaunches

Embattled UK retailer Oddbins has relaunched onto the UK high street under new ownership.

As part of its relaunch, a new sales proposition will see the chain’s customers decide the price of three bottles of its new range.

For four days, culminating this Sunday, all 37 of the relaunched stores will be offering customers the chance to blind-taste three of its new wines. Customers will then be asked to submit a price that they would be happy to pay for each wine, with the wines going on sale at the average ‘customer recommended price’ (CRP).

Ayo Akintola, Oddbins’ new managing director, said: ‘For a long time, the noise around wine has been about discounting and price cuts. It’s time we had a mature conversation about price and what constitutes value.

‘The new Oddbins will put the consumer at the heart of everything we do.’

The company said ‘a minimum’ of 100 cases of each wine would be available at the CRP, and would remain on sale until sold out.

‘Yes, there is a degree of risk involved,’ he said, ‘but it’s symptomatic of the new approach, which is to have a dialogue with customers.’

The spokesman added that he would be ‘very surprised’ if Oddbins ended up making a loss from the customer-priced wine. He wouldn’t, though, be drawn on the likely continuation of the scheme, saying decisions would be made once the company had chance to assess its success.

The results of the first scheme will be released in two weeks’ time.

The company added that, as part of the relaunch, each branch will operate ‘semi-autonomously’ with branch managers encouraged to select wines to suits their neighbourhood demographic.

‘To a large degree, each branch will operate like an independent merchant,’ said the spokesman.

The chain will boast 475 lines in total, 375 of which are new. Forty per cent of them will retail for over £10.

“We won’t be doing the big price reductions and deals like the supermarkets, that is unachievable,” said head buyer Emma Nichols. “What we will do is honestly offer the best possible wines we can sell at each price point.

At its peak, the Oddbins chain boasted 250 stores across the country. However, it suffered a long downward spiral under the ownership of French drinks group Castel, with its best located branches turned into Castel’s Nicolas brand, Bought in 2008 by Simon Baile, Oddbins struggled on, with its number of outlets falling to 85. Without sufficient investment however, losses mounted.

Oddbins went into administration in April of this year, owing HM Revenue & Customs £8.5m. Several weeks later, 37 of its stores were bought for an undisclosed sum by EFB Group, the wine firm owned by multi-millionaire investor Raj Chatha.

Written by Guy Woodward

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