Sixteen out of every 100 wines on the shelves of independent wine merchants have been bought direct from producers – a 5.5% decrease on a year ago.
This year’s Wine Merchant reader survey reveals a growing hesitancy among many independents towards direct imports, with Brexit cited by many respondents as the chief stumbling block.
Indeed 60% of respondents believe that Brexit will ultimately diminish the success of the UK wine trade, and 70% say the UK should rejoin the EU at the earliest possible opportunity.
Tom Jones of The Whalley Wine Shop in Lancashire says: “We stopped buying directly after the Brexit vote and the crash in the value of sterling.
“Now, with the incredibly complex paperwork, customs declarations and other elements there is almost no incentive for a business our size to navigate the challenge of buying directly.
“If the currency drastically improved then perhaps the rewards would outweigh the risk and hassle, but right now they don’t.”
According to the survey, 3% of all UK merchants expect to stop all direct buying from producers this year, while another 8% say they will reduce such activity.
Twenty-one per cent will continue to source all their wines from UK importers.
Perhaps surprisingly, twice as many independents – 24% – say they will buy wines this year as part of a formal buying group than as part of an informal collective with other merchants.
Not everyone is feeling gloomy about imports and in fact a quarter of indies say they will increase direct sourcing in the current year. The figure is much lower than recorded last year, when more than a third of respondents said they planned to increase imports. But it reflects a mood among many merchants that going direct is an important part of their purchasing mix.
“We’re happy with the wines we import,” says Jonathan Sutton of Michael Sutton’s Cellar in Dartmouth.
“Brexit has made no difference either positively or negatively to importing wine from Europe. In the last six months the importing process has been at its quickest that I can remember.”
Our concluding reader survey coverage appears in our April edition.