April edition now online

the wine merchant issue 24 front pageIt’s hard to remember what life was like before the Prosecco sales boom, and just as difficult to predict when it might start to tail off.

You couldn’t really design a wine that ticks more consumer boxes. It’s got bubbles. It’s moderate in alcohol. It’s not too dry. It’s got a name that’s not only pronounceable, but sounds classy. And, most crucially of all, it’s affordable – at least by comparison to the Champagnes that have been elbowed to one side at many a wedding.

In the final instalment of our reader survey analysis, we report that independents still have massive faith in Prosecco’s ability to deliver yet more sales growth. It ties in neatly with similar findings in consumer research carried out by Wine Intelligence.

But keep an eye on English wine. More than half the respondents in the survey say they expect to see it achieve a sales increase in their businesses this year – far more than those predicting growth for Champagne or Cava. The enthusiasm for English wine is reflected in a feature in the new issue in which independents discuss the success they’ve already achieved with domestic fizz – and also the increasingly credible selection of still wines.

Click here to view the issue in digital form.

Remembering Sue Whelan

Sue Whelan, the former sales msue whelananager at Seckford Agencies until her retirement in 2010, sadly lost her brief battle with pancreatic cancer on Saturday.      

Sue was a much valued and respected member of the Seckford Agencies team and previously worked for Vinoceros and Belloni.

Julie Maitland at Seckford says: “Sue always demonstrated the highest levels of professionalism and charm, qualities which have often been referred to in the many tributes we have received.”

The funeral takes place on Wednesday April 9 at 11.40 in the Kingswood Chapel, Worthing Crematorium, located at Findon on the A24 near Worthing. BN14 0RG.  The family have requested no flowers and no black.

Donations would be welcome to St Barnabas Hospice, Tintoretto Lane, Worthing BN12 6NZ.

Michael Cox memorial service

Everyone in the wine trade is aware of the sad death of Michael Cox. The tributes have poured in from all sides; The Wine Merchant published its own, written by David Williams, in the March edition.

Michael’s wife Lynne and twin brother David and his family have confirmed that everyone attending Michael’s memorial service at Southwark Cathedral on Thursday 10th April at 3.30 pm is welcome to join them for a glass of wine in The Great Halls at Vinopolis afterwards.

Survey provides a glimpse of the future

Independents are taking an increasingly open-minded approach to their shops and broadening their specialism beyond wine.

The 2014 reader survey conducted by The Wine Merchant suggests that most specialist independent wine shops will eventually sell delicatessen items or other food, and that a majority will also offer wine for consumption on the premises.

The Wine merchant issue 23The poll of more than 100 readers found that almost 45% of independents already sell food, and 12% are considering introducing a food offer of some kind.

A quarter of respondents say they sell wine for consumption on the premises, and 27% are considering introducing this service for their customers.

The survey also detected increasing interest from independents in speciality spirits, British craft beers, imported beers, cigars and tobacco products, wine accessories and glassware. Of these categories, spirits proved the most popular, with 76% of respondents saying the category was definitely of interest to their business, compared to 65% last year.

British craft beers, which topped the 2013 poll, saw their level of interest increase from 63% to 72%. Imported beers, which scored 39% last year, achieved 47% this time.

Interest in glassware saw a spectacular increase, from 19% to 34%, and wine accessories were not far behind, up from 19% to 33%. Interest in cigars and tobacco was up modestly, from 30% to 32%.

Once again, Boutinot topped the table of the independent sector’s favourite suppliers, with Liberty finishing second for the second successive year – though the margin this time was just one vote.

Sixty-nine per cent of respondents say they are broadly happy with the support they receive from suppliers, with just 8% saying they are fairly unhappy.

Suppliers are criticised in the survey for a variety of problems, including a lack of clarity on channel strategy, errors during the ordering process, unrealistic minimum orders and inadequate support for marketing and promotions.

Last month’s issue of The Wine Merchant reported survey findings that total sales in the independent trade rose by more than 7% last year, from £421 million to £483.2 million, with average takings per shop up from £617,537 to £681,997.

• More survey analysis appears on pages 20 to 23 of this month’s issue. 

Independents buoyed by 7% sales increase

Independent wine shops have seen their combined turnover go up by 7% over the past year, according to an exclusive survey by The Wine Merchant.

Total sales in the sector now stand at £483.2 million, up from £421 million in last year’s survey.

The Wine Merchant issue 22The average takings per shop, excluding VAT, have risen even more sharply. The figure is up from £617,537 to £681,997, an increase of just over 10%. The survey shows that an average of 70% of turnover comes from shop sales, with a further 22% contributed by wholesale activities and 5% from web orders.

Independents are also far more bullish than they were a year ago. Forty-two per cent say they are “very optimistic” about a sales increase this year, compared to 25% in 2013. The number claiming to be “fairly optimistic” is unchanged at 50%.

The proportion of retailers who feel they are likely to open additional branches in the coming year fell slightly, from 12% to 11%.

More than 120 retailers completed this year’s survey, the biggest study thought to exist in the independent sector.

More analysis of the survey findings appears in the February edition of the magazine. The March edition will discuss other aspects of this year’s data.

Independent Buyers’ Day: a tasting with a different flavour

Thursday March 14 2014
The London Scottish Drill Hall
Horseferry Rd, London SW1P 2DX 

The Wine Merchant is proud to support Independent Buyers’ Day. This is a tasting event unlike any other, celebrating quality wines that are not in national distribution. Wines that are aimed at squarely at independent wine merchants and on-trade operators.

ibd take 1_edited-1


The event will feature some of the most exciting and innovative wine importers operating in the UK market. But it also recognises the important roles that craft beers and premium spirits play in our trade, which is why those product categories are represented too.

All exhibitors will be focusing entirely on products that are aimed solely at independents, and which are available from UK stock. Everything on show at the IBD is guaranteed not to be in national bricks-and-mortar distribution at the time of the show.

For a list of exhibitors, more details about the event and to register to attend, click here.

Senior judges for The Wine Merchant Top 50

We’re in the process of recruiting this year’s panel of judges, but we already have our three senior judges in place for The Wine Merchant Top 50.

They are Hal Wilson, of Cambridge Wine Merchants; Philip Amps, of Amps Fine Wines in Oundle; and Kate Goodman of Reserve Wines in Manchester and BBC TV’s Food & Drink programme.

Hal Wilson, Philip Amps and Kate Goodman

Hal Wilson, Philip Amps and Kate Goodman

We’re very proud to have judges of this calibre involved in this year’s competition and will be naming the other independent judges in the next few weeks.

The Wine Merchant Top 50 is a wine devoted entirely to independent wines, judged by independents. The winners will be showcased at the London Wine Fair and featured in a special supplement in The Wine Merchant.

For more information about the competition and how you can get involved, please visit the website.

January edition: online wine sales reach £800m

Ten million people – a quarter of all alcohol drinkers – now buy wine online or from other direct-to-home (DTH) channels.     

New research from Wine Intelligence estimates that DTH sales are worth as much as £800 million, which equates to around 13% of the off-trade wine market.

January edition out now

January edition out now

Although data from online retailers and wine clubs is notoriously hard to quantify, Wine Intelligence suggests that Tesco has a market share of 28%. Direct Wines – which runs Laithwaites, Virgin Wines and the Sunday Times Wine Club – accounts for 25% of sales.

No figure has been put on independents’ share of the market but the research found that people buying online from such stores tend to be older than the market average, and are more likely to be male.

The average online spend on a bottle of wine is £6.12, but this figure rises to more than £6.70 on the websites of more specialist shops (a definition that includes retailers like Majestic, Slurp and Oddbins, as well as independents).

Those who buy wine online or through a wine club are more likely to be in the AB socio-economic groups.

Convenience is a bigger purchase motivator than price, the research found.

This article appears in the January edition of The Wine Merchant. Click here to access the digital version.

Reader Survey 2014

The independent sector is a lively and dynamic area of the UK wine trade. Keeping track of changes is tricky – which is why this part of the market is still so widely misunderstood.

The Wine Merchant reader survey provides a valuable opportunity to put this right. More than 100 independents responded to last year’s online questionnaire and the 2014 survey will illustrate how much has changed in the past 12 months.

The results will show how confident retailers are feeling about their businesses, where they expect growth to come from, and what areas of the market excite them most. It’s a period of unprecedented diversification for many independents and the survey will cast light on the trends towards on-premise sales, delicatessen offers, craft beers, artisanal spirits and much more.

patchworkIt’s also a unique opportunity to give feedback to suppliers. Which importers are doing the best job, and what could they be doing better?

Taking part in the survey should take no more than 10 minutes of your time. Although we’d like you to respond to all the questions, you can skip any that you’d rather not answer. All your answers will be treated in strict confidence, except where you give permission for quoting. The aim is to build up a detailed picture of the market as a whole, not to publicise information about individual retailers.

Our friends at Negociants UK are offering a case of Yalumba Patchwork Barossa Shiraz (see below for details) to one randomly-chosen respondent. The grapes for the 2011 Patchwork Shiraz are sourced from a mix of vineyards ranging from young (10-12 years old) to mature vines (35 years or older) and are planted in a diverse range of sites, which all have slight variations in micro-climates and soil types.

Click here to go straight to the survey.

Please note: the survey is only open to UK-based specialist wine retailers with shops open to the public. We regret that online-only and direct mail merchants are excluded.

Château Palmer winners

The winners of the Sichel 1883 Quiz (The Wine Merchant, December) are Simon Taylor of Bin Ends at The Bear in Stroud who wins the imperiale of Château Palmer 1982, and Martin Tickle of Corney & Barrow who wins the double magnum of Palmer 1989.

The winner of the Absolutely Cracking Wines from France competition is Jill Corr of Valhalla’s Goat in Glasgow, who wins a mixed case of wine.