Survey shows that confidence is slowly returning, even though average wine prices only rose by 8p a bottle last year.


Wine merchants say they are more confident about their prospects than they were a year ago, according to this year’s Wine Merchant reader survey.

More than 200 businesses took part in this year’s project, which is the most detailed study of the specialist independent wine trade in the UK.

Roughly half of all merchants saw sales increase in 2023, though with the average price per bottle of still wine rising by just 8p, to £15.78, the sector is not keeping pace with duty increases and inflation. 

Independents are more reliant on wine sales than at any time since the survey began, with spirits and beer sales continuing their relative decline.

The results also illustrate that indies are taking an imaginative approach to their revenue streams. Just over half of their trade now takes place at the till, significantly down on what most indies expected before Covid, with wholesaling, online sales and ticketed events all playing significant roles.

Just under half of independent merchants now offer wine to drink on the premises, but the momentum behind the trend towards a hybrid shop and bar model appears to have slowed. Many independents say they have no space to adapt to this format, while others – especially in Scotland and Northern Ireland – say licensing complications are the stumbling block.

But a number of merchants say the hybrid model is unattractive because it can dilute the retail side of their business, and many indies report that their customers continue to be confused by the concept of corkage charges.

Satisfaction with suppliers remains high, with 77% of respondents saying they are happy with the support they receive.

Once again, Boutinot tops the popularity poll of 130 suppliers nominated by respondents, followed by Liberty Wines, Alliance Wine, Hatch Mansfield and Thorman Hunt.

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