Off-licence chain Threshers has been hit with several problems, but it’s a business model that works. Will it be given the opportunity to shine?

Food is somewhat recession-proof, so the experts say, but what they’re also saying is that shoppers want brands that cater for their every need. And that’s why niche brands are also doing well – they know their customer, get in the product they want, and deliver it with a service that makes the shopper feel special.

It is a wonder then why off-licence chain Threshers is struggling. On the surface, most people would say that Threshers has been hit by the supermarkets. The likes of Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda not only have the buying power to offer the best prices, they have also stepped up the amount of promotions in the recession.

But supermarkets and Threshers are not going after the same market. Threshers is a local store. And its shoppers don’t necessarily do a supermarket shop in one of the big four grocers.

The typical Threshers customer will buy their meat and fresh vegetables from the local farmers’ market, their cheeses and bread from a deli and probably get the staples from the likes of Ocado. And on the way back from the market or deli, they should be popping into a Threshers to get a bottle of wine to match whatever they’re cooking that evening.

Threshers, therefore, should offer a depth of range that suits its customers, and a service that is second to none. It won’t be the cheapest, but that won’t matter if it has got product and service right.

Threshers is not one of those retailers like the former Woolworths – before it was reborn online – which had a failing business model. It is a model that can work, if given the right amount of care.

Threshers’ problems, then, must be internal. It has – like many other retailers – been hit by a reduction in credit insurance. But there have also been several high level departures in its management team and a lot of very disgruntled franchisees.

Threshers’ holding company First Quench Retailing has been owned by Vision Capital for a couple of years but sources have said they didn’t really do anything with it for a long time. It is thought that they are now considering their position carefully.

Vision Capital needs to give Threshers some care before it’s too late as it would be a crying shame to the high street if we lost another great local store.