OFT to be left out of pocket by Threshers

THE Office of Fair Trading is set to be one of the biggest casualties from the demise of high street off-licence firm First Quench Retailer, as it is owed millions of pounds.<br /><br />First Quench Retailing, the parent company behind Threshers and Wine Rack off-licences, was one of six firms fined &pound;173.3.m by the OFT last July, after admitting to collusion over the pricing of cigarettes. <br /><br />The collusion emerged after Sainsbury&rsquo;s blew the whistle &ndash; a decision that has allowed it to escape prosecution and a fine.<br /><br />The OFT found that two tobacco firms &ndash; Imperial Tobacco and Gallaher &ndash; passed to retailers information about what their rivals would be charging for leading cigarette brands to increase their profit margins. A number of parties continue to fight the allegations.<br /><br />But despite over a year passing since awarding the fine, the OFT is still to receive a singly penny of the fine from First Quench &ndash; leaving it as another unsecured creditor out of pocket. <br /><br />First Quench Retailing, which collapsed into administration two weeks ago, runs about 1,200 stores in Scotland, England and Wales and employs 6,300 people. <br /><br />The retailer failed to cope with cut-price competition from supermarkets and falling trade caused by the recession, KPMG said.<br /><br />KPMG has announced plans to shut 373 stores, leading to more than 1,738 redundancies. <br /><br />Administrators hope to sell the business as a &ldquo;going concern&rdquo; thereby preserving as many jobs as possible. <br /><br />KPMG&rsquo;s UK head of restructuring at and joint administrator, Richard Fleming, said 247 of the stores will continue to trade until 25 November and 126 until 2 December.<br /><br />He added the administrators are confident of securing a sale for the remaining stores &ldquo;in the coming weeks&rdquo; and that he had already received expressions of interest.