Steve Fisher is facing up to the prospect of finding a new brand name for the Stan James chain of betting shops that he first set up in 1973, in a process that will cost a seven figure sum.
As reported by Racing Post, the change has been forced by the Swedish operator Unibet’s purchase of the seperate Stan James online business last summer, which gave Unibet full rights and ownership of the brand. The deal did not include the British betting shops business, which was granted rights to the Stan James brand ‘for a transitional period’.
Fisher, who was one of the pioneers of online betting, said they still had more than 12 months to complete the change. He explained: “We have to change the name; it’s not our brand anymore, so there is a period for us to come up with another one. We agreed to it, it’s part of the deal and we’ll be complying with what we have to do.”
The Stan James chain expanded with the purchase of a number of shops from Betfred in the aftermath of the Tote deal, with the firm’s 80-plus estate ranging from Glasgow to Truro. However, that means a great deal of cost, and cost that cannot be spread over a period of time.
Fisher continued: “It will cost at least a million pounds just to change the name. We’ve got 80-odd shops, so with £10,000 for new signage plus 20 per cent unrecoverable VAT that’s a million pounds.
“What you would really like to do is change ten per cent of the shops per month over the next 12 months, but it doesn’t look right; you’ve got to go from Stan James to ‘ABC Bookmakers’ pretty much straight away.”
How many of the shops will bear the new name when it is decided is another question given the pressures facing the sector, and Fisher does not believe those pressures are exclusive to smaller operators such as himself.
“The future for us is the same as it is for the rest of the industry. It’s not great at the moment. The government’s made another increase to 25 per cent on the tax on machines, which is money that comes straight off the bottom line, and we’ve all got unprofitable shops that would cost us more money to close than to keep open. Most people are on five-year leases.
“I’d think over the next five years you’d probably see 20 per cent to 25 per cent of shops closing. As soon as you have a chance to get out of the lease you’d take it straight away. Twenty per cent of ours would be 16 shops, so we’d be closing three shops a year for the next five years.”