Cliff Roberson has always been a man worth listening to. He’s one of the British wine trade’s original thinkers and mavericks – and while there’s no doubt that he knows his wine, his real skill is as a businessmen.
When rumours reached us a month or so ago that the iconic store in Kensington was closing, the first instinct was raise a sceptical eyebrow. The shop was at the heart of the Roberson machine “and always will be”, the website declared – until the wording was changed quite recently. The rumour turned out to have substance.
The Wine Merchant was granted a rare (and exclusive) interview with the man himself, which is reported in a three-page feature in the July edition. It’s illuminating stuff. Roberson admits that the closure is emotionally challenging, but he’s allowing his business brain to dominate. Commercially, it makes no sense to persist with such expensive infrastructure, especially as the contribution it’s making to the business is diminishing. Roberson is itching for new challenges (including building up the wholesale side of the company) and is keen to point out that his decision to pull out of retail does not represent a lack of faith in bricks-and-mortar wine retailing per se.
As always, we’re publishing the online edition on the 15th of the month, which is the date by when printed copies usually arrive. There was a glitch this month with the printers, so the mailing happened on the 14th, a few days later than we’d normally expect, and most copies will be arriving tomorrow.