Issue 34: measuring the boom

page 1By now, even the cynics are convinced that independent wine merchants are booming, if only because there are always more shops opening than closing. Numbers keep on climbing.

But how do you quantify a boom? Our annual reader survey offers some important pointers. We asked independents about their turnover, their forecasts for the year ahead, their relationships with suppliers, the areas in which they specialise … and much more. Read the first instalment of our analysis in the March issue, and the second in the April edition.

Congratulations once again to Boutinot, voted the supplier that independents most enjoy working with. It’s no mean feat to top the poll three years in succession, especially when it’s clear that retailers are broadening their horizons and using a larger number of suppliers, including some with very niche offers – and also doing more of their own importing.

Do you have a licence for that Parker quote?

Issue 33 page 1Retailers who quote scores and tasting notes from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate are being warned they have to pay for the privilege.

Shops must obtain a commercial subscription, at $199 per store, in order to borrow quotes from Parker or any of the Wine Advocate’s seven other reviewers, or even to quote the points that wines receive.

Mark Wrigglesworth of The Good Wine Shop in west London has been contacted by the publisher and asked to stop quoting Parker reviews on his website as he does not have a commercial licence to do so.

Wrigglesworth says: “I am somewhat surprised that it is possible to to copyright something that is in the public domain.”
Using the words of wine critics on shelf-talkers and other marketing material is an issue that can create headaches for independents.

Although Matthew Jukes argues that Parker points are in the public domain, he himself charges for the use of material he self-publishes on his website. Martin Isark, who has taken legal action against Majestic and Direct Wines for using his quotes without permission, demands £15,000 for his words to be used in marketing.

Anthony Rose and Victoria Moore, meanwhile, do not charge a fee.

See the February edition of The Wine Merchant for more.

News flash: independent trade rises by almost 5%

The independent trade grew by 4.8% in 2014 and is now worth more than £500m for the first time.

Early results from The Wine Merchant’s 2015 reader survey value the independent market at £506.2m, up from £483.2m a year ago.

But the figures reveal that, as store numbers have grown, the amount of revenue that independents are achieving per shop has dipped very slightly.

The data applies to UK independent merchants that operate retail premises and have a genuine specialism in wine. It does not include chains such as Oddbins or Wine Rack, general off-licences or convenience stores.

Full details will appear in the March edition of The Wine Merchant, along with other findings from the survey.

The Wine Merchant Top 100: entries open

The response to The Wine Merchant Top 50 in the past two years has been so enthusiastic, and the quality so high, that this year we’ve decided to double the number of winners. So please say hello to The Wine Merchant Top 100.

The competition is open only to wines exclusive to independents,WM Top 50 Logos 2014 AW available from UK stock. All of our judges are independent merchants.

All of this year’s winners will be showcased on our stand at the London Wine Fair and of course featured in a special supplement, mailed out to all readers of The Wine Merchant – in other words, all the specialist independent wine retailers in the UK.

To find out more about the competition, please visit the competition website where you’ll find all the details you need about how to enter, and how the judging works.

Issue 32: the year starts here

The number of independent specialist wine shops operating in the UK has hit a new high.

By the end of 2014 the figure had reached 753 stores, operated by 550 businesses, according to research by The Wine Merchant.

Twenty new shops appeared last year, a slight decrease on the 25 recorded in 2013. But the number of stores that opened as extensions of existing retail businesses went up from five in 2013 to eight in 2014.

Ten of the 20 independents that opened their first shops last year are located in the south east of England – six of them in London.

The stores that appThe Wine Merchant issue 32eared in 2014 epitomise the diverse nature of modern drinks retailing. Several of the new shops are basing their offer around refillable bottles, while others are making dispense machines their centrepiece.

A number of the new entrants have factored in food sales, but the classic wine shop model endures in the majority of cases.

Wine Merchant editor Graham Holter says: “There has been a net increase in the number of independents every month for the past two years. In fact there has only been one month over the past five years in which numbers dipped.

“It’s a remarkably vibrant and resilient sector and we expect more growth.”

This article appears in the current issue of The Wine Merchant. The issue also includes a report of a recent independent merchant trip to Arezzo, organised in conjunction with Michele Shah, who specialises in regional trips to Italy using her Speedtasting format.

Reader Survey 2015

Every year, The Wine Merchant conducts a survey that takes the temperature of the independent trade. We think it’s the biggest and most comprehensive study of its kind.

If you’re an independent wine merchant, with physical retail premises, we’d love you to take part. The survey will take five to 10 minutes of your time.

All responses are treated in confidence, but collectively the data we get helps us build up a really accurate picture of the independent trade and how it’s performing. It also gives you the chance to comment on the service you get from suppliers and couriers, and to give your verdict on innovations like dispense devices and draught wine, and the move towards offering craft beer and food and on the premises.

This year’s survey is being run in partnership with Enotria, which is offering some goodies to randomly-selected respondents. Full details will follow.

Thanks for your time – please click here to take part.

Independents bloom in garden centres

Garden centres have changed a lot over the past decade or so. Many are more like rural shopping centres, and it’s no surprise that wine is part of the consumer offer.

Reserve Wines is the latest independent to expand in this way, but there are many others who have already spotted the opportunity to sell Beaujolais alongside the bedding plants. These merchants have none of the heaThe Wine Merchant issue 31 page 1daches with parking and rent reviews that afflict their high-street counterparts. Many find that the cross-pollination that occurs with neighbouring traders is another benefit.

Operating as a wine merchant within a garden centre, or as part of a farm shop complex, has obvious drawbacks to do with seasonality. Your shop is also much more likely to be further away from centres of population, and drop-in trade. But from a cost perspective, the case is a compelling one.

It’s a theme we explore in more detail in the current edition of The Wine Merchant, the last one of 2014 and the biggest issue we’ve published to date. Thanks to everyone for their ongoing support.