Oddbins put up the "SOLD" sign yesterday (see here, and here). Really, for those who have been following this (including me), it was not a surprise. What might be a surprise was who bought it. Ex Cellar.
Well, I can't claim to be clued up about all the businesses out there, but this one is pretty small, with only 2 outlets BUT ... it has a particularly powerful motivator, the kind of thing that might be needed to turn around the performance of a business like Oddbins. The family name.
Ex cellar is run by the son of the founder of Oddbins, Simon Baille.
I come across a phenomenon regularly both in my professional life and my personal experiences. The businesses that impress me most are those where everyone I come into contact with are motivated to make the 'relationship' with me (the customer, or supplier) a success because it is good for the business, and for them personally.
I'm sure that seems like common sense, but how many times are you served in a restaurant by someone who obviously is there only for the money and really is only doing the bare minimum? Instead, think how you feel when you walk into a small business and are served by the owner who does everything to please you and make you feel important - because you are.
The best larger businesses manage to engender that feeling even when you are being served by an employee, not the owner, but that employee is fully committed to the business and to the relationship.
Oddbins USED to have this. There was a camaraderie, a pioneering spirit and a sense of fun that was shared amongst all stores. Even though they were not running a small, independent local store, you still felt like it was, but still got the benefit of great buyers sourcing interesting stuff from all around the world.
When it lost that sense of fun, that commitment, it lost its USP and it became just another retailer. Even the mightiest can fall at this hurdle (Starbucks is on the retreat, and McDonalds has been for some years too).
I hope that the new owners can use the family link to recreate that personal commitment from the staff to the business that will make Oddbins a great source of wine again. It is not going to be easy, but all of a sudden, there is at least the potential for this to happen.
If I could make a suggestion though, I would suggest that the developers of the ex cellar website do not get the job of redesigning the Oddbins site! If you need contacts, let me know!