The drinks world has united in shock and amazement at the news that iconic retailer Oddbins has posted a loss for the last year.
‘I’m completely stunned,’ said Absolutely Everybody. ‘Not that they didn’t make any money, but that they’re still here.
‘I thought they’d disappeared years ago.’
Oddbins went into administration in January 2019, blaming ‘an as yet non-existent pandemic which we expect to appear in 12 months time and which will make trading impossible.’
The retailer’s current owners have said they are ‘implausibly optimistic’ about the future and will ‘continue to support the chain until they can find someone daft enough to take it off their hands.’
‘It’s still a great name,’ they told Fake Booze. ‘And it inspires real affection in everyone apart from our accountants.’
Drinks writers of a certain age all agreed that the chain ‘definitely deserved to survive’ and that the country ‘would be poorer without it’, though they personally tended to shop at Tesco ‘because it’s cheaper’.
In a famously cut-throat retail environment, Oddbins has often struggled to make money and has been sold, closed, resurrected and lost behind the sofa on 25 separate occasions.
‘It’s tough to run it at a profit,’ said business consultant Hugh Jarrears. ‘But the current owners can definitely make it a less unsuccessful business by cutting back the number of stores to a more manageable number.
‘I’d suggest zero.’
Champion of mediocrity
Oddbins is famous for having launched the careers of hundreds of current members of the UK wine world.
‘That consistent inability to make money is very much a hallmark of the Oddbins way,’ said Jarrears, ‘and that strong ethos of unprofitability still runs through the industry today.
‘Literally anybody who is nobody started there.’
The retailer was a mighty presence on the UK high street for 30 years, famous for helping to democratise wine and break the category open for a whole new generation of drinkers.
‘It really helped people to explore,’ said famous drinks writer Francis Jobbinson. ‘Customers loved being able to get wines from all over the world for £5, served by hungover graduates who couldn’t get a proper job.’
Champion of variety
The store’s open-minded ethos had, she said, had a huge impact on shaping the nature of the UK wine scene.
‘All those ordinary members of the public who you see regularly spending big money on unusual regions and wine styles – that’s entirely down to Oddbins’ influence,’ she told Fake Booze.
‘Without it, the UK’s retail landscape would just be endless £8 bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, Malbec and prosecco.
I’ve seen the future
‘It’s great that Oddbins hasn’t died yet,’ said drinks writer Boo Zhack. ‘I cut my teeth there 30 years ago and it taught me so much.
‘Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go because I’m finishing a column on how viciously oaked Chardonnay and Chilean Merlot are the future.’
Click here to read about bold plans to teach supermarket buyers the difference between shampoo and Chardonnay.