Independent numbers hold steady


Despite an unusually high rate of store closures in 2023, the number of specialist independent wine shops has barely changed in the past 12 months.

The Wine Merchant’s figure recorded at the end of October stood at 1,018 shops, run by 774 operators, compared to 1,019 shops, run by 777 operators, exactly a year ago.

Although there could yet be some turbulence in the independent trade as the calendar year ends and merchants make tough decisions about lease renewals, the resilience of the sector in what was expected to be a particularly tough 12 months will be a relief to many.

With mortgage rates and energy bills soaring and inflation running rampant, consumers and businesses alike have been feeling the squeeze, with the summer duty hike adding to the pressures.
But new openings in the independent trade, along with expansion by existing operators, have broadly cancelled out the closures.

This year has seen the closure of The Wine Parlour’s two sites in Brixton; Noble Fine Liquor in north London; Cairns & Hickey in Leeds; M Wine Store in Victoria, London; Saltpeter Wines in Woodbridge, Suffolk; Ben’s Wine & Tapas in Totnes; The Grape Escape in Ipswich; Wolf Wine in Bath; The Wine Centre in Great Horkesley, Essex; Wine Fiend in Cardiff; The Twisted Cork in Kelvedon, Essex; Gallachers of Rugby; Bottle London; Chin Chin in Henley; and Cru Wines in Bradford-on-Avon.

The Grape to Glass in Rhos-on-Sea, north Wales, closed one of its two stores.

But on the positive side of the ledger, new arrivals included The Cellar by Wine Monkey in Chippenham; Carol’s in Whitstable; VIN in Gateshead; The Old Liquor Store in York; Colne Valley Wines in Essex; Vino Buono in Stockport; Corc in Barry; Feral Pig Wines in Newport, Pembrokeshire; Orlando’s Wines & Spirits in Plymouth; and Chanctonbury Wines in Steyning, West Sussex.

Several merchants expanded, including The Wee Vinoteca in Hitchin, which took over the former Cozzi & Boffa store at Burwash Manor near Cambridge; Stroud Wine Company opened a second shop; Eline restaurant in Hoxton opened Kimchi’s Bottle Shop; Fine Wines of Mayfield opened a second shop, in Tunbridge Wells; The Sourcing Table opened a second store in south London; Must & Lees opened a second shop in north London; Great Grog opened its third Edinburgh store; The Piper Bottle Shop took over the former Pop Wines site in Broomhill, Glasgow; and Kilo Wines of Loughborough opened a second branch.

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