Roberson quits retail to focus on ‘new ideas’

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Roberson is closing its iconic shop in High Street Kensington but insists its faith in independent wine retailing is as strong as ever.

The decision was partly driven by escalating costs but managing director Cliff Roberson says the time is right to steer the business, founded in 1991, in a new direction. This includes the creation of a dedicated off-trade wholesaling division, led by current shop manager Jack Green, offering independents a bespoke range.

The intention is to provide a specialist selection, focusing largely on Californian and French wines. The company also intends to put extra resources behind its online activities, which have started to overtake sales in the shop. But Roberson himself is keen to see the business move into new territory, as it did when it launched the London Cru urban winery.

Speaking to The Wine Merchant, he said: “We have younger people getting involved in the business and they see the future in a different way. Which is fair enough – I’m very happy with that. I would sooner that happens than say ‘oh yes, we’ll carry on the same as we’ve always done’. What’s the point of that?”

The shop – which attracts business rates of £45,000 a year, has no parking facilities and was due for a rent review – will close at the end of August. Roberson himself expects to scale down his involvement with the business over the next five to 10 years “or maybe even before”, but continues to work full-time from the west London headquarters which are soon to be extended.

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