The number of specialist independent wine merchants in the UK has hit a new high.
There are now 855 shops operated by 624 businesses, according to the latest data compiled by The Wine Merchant, a net increase of 31 premises on the figure recorded in January 2017.
That figure is below the net growth of 40 shops seen in 2016, but encouraging news for an industry which is feeling the effects of the weaker pound and faltering confidence in much of the retail sector.
Twenty-three new wine merchants appeared last year, with the rest of the growth accounted for by existing businesses opening new branches. There were a number of closures, but these were easily outnumbered by the number of openings – and for once several indies were sold as going concerns.
Although last year’s Wine Merchant reader survey found that just 28% of independents sell wine for consumption on the premises, 13 of the 23 new entrants have some form of on-premise offer, which may offer clues about the future direction of the trade generally.
Just over half of the new shops – 16 – appeared in London, while three were opened in Wales.