The independents who cross the line

These early weeks of the year are a time for fresh thinking, new ideas, blank sheets of paper. Let’s face it: what else are you going to do in January, with half your customers detoxing and the other half staring at bank correspondence written in capital letters?

The coming 12 months are certain to see more independent wine merchants take the plunge into on-premise sales. (Our reader survey, which went live this week, will in due course predict just how big that trend is likely to be – feel free to spend 10 minutes with it, if you haven’t already.)The Wine Merchant issue 43

How do you go about changing your business model in this way, what red tape will ensnare you as you go, and what results can you expect? The new issue of The Wine Merchant has some helpful suggestions.

As always, we think the best people to turn to at times like this are the retailers themselves. We’ve interviewed four independents who have introduced on-premise sales in recent times, and they’ve told their stories with characteristic honesty. Each project came with its own quirks and challenges, and the nature of the projects varied from business to business.

We’ve also spoken to some legal experts to help make sense of the licensing and planning issues that are created when on-premise sales become part of the equation.

Is the day approaching when all wine merchants will be an on-off hybrid? No. The formula is an interesting one, and has proved itself in some villages and market towns as well as more metropolitan locations. But that doesn’t mean it can work everywhere, for everyone.

It’s encouraging to see so many indies going the on-trade route. But there will always be a place for the classic wine merchant model … and, for now at least, such stores represent the clear majority.

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