Crowd funding is a useful way for small businesses to raise a bit of extra cash. In the wine trade the money might be channeled into a new sampling device, or perhaps a second branch. Those who make donations get a nice thank-you and an invitation to the launch party, but often not much more.
Taurus Wines in Surrey has gone a step further, raising £275,000 via Crowdcube to finance a move to larger premises and to open a second branch. The benefactors in this case have become shareholders in the business, with a combined stake of 10%. In time they will probably receive an annual dividend of 6% and even be able to trade their shares.
It’s an interesting business model and one that could work for dozens of independents who are looking at expansion plans. Read all about the Taurus experience in the July edition of The Wine Merchant.
We’re delighted to confirm this year’s Wine Merchant Top 100. We had a record entry this year of just under 700 wines which meant it was tougher than ever to be a winner. Congratulations to all the producers and suppliers who made the cut.
All of the wines are available to taste this week at our stand (V76) at the London Wine Fair. Competition director David Williams and Wine Merchant editor Graham Holter will be happy to discuss how the competition works and what the judges – a panel of 18 independent wine merchants – were looking for in the winning wines.
Look out for our winners supplement, which will feature profiles of all the winning wines and a run-down of our Highly Commended wines too.
Meanwhile, all this year’s Top 100 appear below:
The April edition of The Wine Merchant contains part two of our reader survey. How important are on-premise sales to independents? Or dispense machines? Or food? The answers may surprise you.
By and large we’re detecting a slightly more conservative streak among indies this year, perhaps not surprising given the price increases that are providing a jolt to the system, and the uncertainty surrounding Brexit’s effect on the economy.
But there’s a definite surge in interest in direct imports. Almost half of respondents plan to increase the amount of wine they source directly from producers in the coming year, with around a quarter expecting to buy at current levels.
Just under 21% say they will continue to buy all their wines from UK suppliers.
Direct importing is often not as complicated as novices fear it might be. But it does leave merchants exposed to currency shocks, and it creates admin that many find fiddly and time-consuming. Logistics and storage can be a headache. Many who go down the direct-import route say they only really appreciate the value of the service provided by agency businesses when they try to do the job themselves.
Most merchants have no intention of importing 100% of their wines. But the proportion of what they do buy in this way looks certain to rise.
Germany is the source of some of the trade’s favourite wines. Every year Wines of Germany assembles a panel of experts to sift through hundreds of bottles – some of which are already available in the UK, others which are seeking distribution – to select their favourites.
This year’s top 50 will be featured in the April edition of The Wine Merchant – but here’s a sneak preview of the winners.
If you’d like to taste the wines for yourself, they’ll be available at the annual German tasting in London on May 9, which this year goes by the name of G String. Click here to register.
Independent wine merchants are an upbeat, positive and energetic bunch. But they’re not delusional. The pound’s capitulation against the euro and dollar(s), coupled with the chaos of Brexit, presents some big challenges for indies.
Our reader survey, reported in this week’s edition, reflects this. Just under 70% of respondents remain positive about increasing their trade in the coming 12 months, but this contrasts with 81% last year and 89% in 2015.
The results were compiled before last week’s 8p-a-bottle hike in wine duty, which hasn’t exactly lightened the mood. Throw soaring business rates into the equation and you have a recipe for gloominess.
But independent wine merchants are resourceful types, and experts at spotting opportunities. And if there’s an economic downturn, they’re often the beneficiaries, picking up extra business as consumers forego nights out in favour of home entertaining – in the company of better quality wine than they might previously have bought. It’s a phenomenon that Laurence Hanison, recently retired from Mill Hill Wines in north London, has experienced first-hand during three recessions.
Independent numbers grew, in net terms, by around 40 last year, bringing the total of specialist wine shops to 822 as we write. More shops are opening than closing. And the new entrants often have imaginative, wide-ranging business plans that go way beyond simply putting wines on shelves and waiting for punters to walk through the door. Take look at the likes of Unwined in Tooting, Jaded Palates in Devon or Burgess & Hall in Forest Gate for some recent examples.
The coming year is going to be tough for many. But we’re willing to bet that the independent sector continues to grow – and thrive.
Coverage of this year’s reader survey appears in the March edition of The Wine Merchant and continues in our April issue.