Threshers owner First Quench Retailing is understood to be sourcing stock from the grey market after its supply chain was interrupted by the reduction of credit insurance to some of its suppliers.

The drinks retailer – owned by private equity firm Vision Capital – admitted it has had “some temporary out-of-stocks in the supply chain” because of the credit insurance problem.

A spokeswoman would not confirm it had sourced grey market stock but added: “The sourcing strategy for the business is to work with manufacturers wherever possible with the view of getting
the best cost prices for the benefit of our customers.”

The group, which also owns Wine Rack and The Local, has also reduced the management fee that it charges franchisees for six months from the end of June in recognition that “the present trading climate is very tough”.

The initiative follows complaints by some disgruntled franchisees about delivery of stock. The spokeswoman said franchisees are a key part of Threshers’ business and it therefore provides “regular stock updates to all franchisees advising them what is available to order”. She added: “Franchisees are also given priority allocation for stock ahead of the managed estate and this has always been the case.”

Last month auditor Ernst & Young voiced concerns over the group’s future as a going concern in its response to First Quench’s annual report, citing a “material uncertainty”. First Quench said that the results are for a period when it was only six months into its turn­around plan and that it is addressing the key commercial and operational issues facing the company.

It is understood former Somerfield chief executive Paul Mason has cast his sliderule over Threshers. Mason said he had no immediate plans to buy any business, but industry sources said he could take a similar approach to Threshers to the one he took with Somerfield by offloading underperforming stores and streamlining the business.