French group opens first UK shop

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French hybrid retail group Vins & Bières has arrived in the UK and opened its first branch in Northampton.

Harriet & Florian Poupinel are working in partnership with the V&B group.

Florian was working as head of area management for V&B when the couple decided to move back to the UK. They approached the retailer with the idea of a joint venture and everything has finally come to fruition.

“If this one takes off as we hope and expect it to, then yes, the plan is to develop and open more stores across the UK,” Harriet confirms.

They first secured a Grade II listed building, which was formerly an Ask Italian restaurant, back in 2020, got the keys in October 2021 and opened in December.

“We are really happy with the premises,” says Harriet.

“It’s a charming building with so much character and it really suits our business. It’s got lots of original features like the parquet flooring upstairs in our tasting room.

“Being a franchise, we had to respect the colours, but luckily the V&B colours are beautiful.

“Normally in France the colours are the other way around, so the shop space is green and the bar areas are red, but we decided to switch them as the green looks so beautiful on the walls upstairs.”

While 60% of the stock will come from the logistics centre in France, the couple are free to source the remaining 40%.

Their inaugural event in the first-floor tasting room, a gin masterclass, sold out in two days. The couple are looking forward to welcoming French winemakers to future events.

The retail and bar areas are clearly separated on the ground floor but there is plenty of flexibility, Harriet says.

“Really everything in the shop is available to drink in by the bottle for a corkage fee,” she adds.

“The beauty of it is that if someone is looking around the shop and sees a particular bottle but they are not quite sure, we can open that and give them a taster and then it can join the other bottles behind the bar to be sold by the glass.”

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