JW Lees eyes Majestic's patch

27 June, 2008

Brewer expands Willoughby's with an ambition to reap £20 million a year

Manchester brewer JW Lees is to challenge Majestic with the planned opening of around 20 wine retail warehouses in its north west heartland.

The brewer's Willoughby's wine division opened its first retail branch in Frodsham last year and will unveil a second, in Sale, in August. The stores, which offer a range of 700 wines, follow Majestic's by-the-case format and are designed to appeal to a similar demographic.

Majestic is already strong in the region, with branches in Manchester, Wilmslow, Warrington, Stockport, Macclesfield, Birkdale, Preston and Chester.

Marketing manager Emma Cartlidge said Willoughby's was considering new-builds, such as in Sale, or converting existing premises.

Willoughby's was established in 1850 and although it was traditionally run as a separate division of JW Lees, in recent years it has merged its operations with its parent company. Now its bosses believe it can carve out its own identity once again as a specialist retailer and hope each outlet can turn over £1 million a year.

"We've got all this wine in the warehouse, and it's becoming tough out there in pubs, so we thought - why don't we put our knowledge to good use?" said Cartlidge.

"We're looking for sites in and around our core area for the time being, which includes north Wales."

The wine buyer and manager of the two stores is Alan Smith. Prices range from Louis Roederer Cristal Rosť at £350 a bottle and Margaux 1994 at £195 to a number of everyday drinking wines priced below £5. Willoughby's is also selling online.


Should the age for buying alcohol in Scottish off-licences be raised to 21?

"It's a load of crap. It's just politicians trying to take the moral high ground again. If they think a law making it illegal for under-21s to buy alcohol is going to solve anything they're in cloud cuckoo land . If someone's old enough to send off to Iraq, they should be able to walk into a shop and buy a drink ."

Andy Taylor

Taylors All In One

Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire

"It's shocking. It will only make things worse because the ones who can't buy it at 18 will be even more desperate to get their hands on it. They'll be sending their friends in who could be 21, and


more trouble. "

Tony Hammond

Corky's Off-sales

Cambuslang, Glasgow

"It's going to mean a hard time for licensees. The authorities should be chasing after the parents and making them take more responsibility rather than adding more for the trade. It's not fair that pubs will still be able to serve someone who's 18. They will just go to the pub

instead ."

Khalid Saeed

Cheers, Broughty Ferry, Angus

"I think it's a pretty good idea . Although I love beer and wine, as an industry we sell poison, and I'd rather not sell poison to kids. I'd be much happier to have a good reason to keep kids out of the shop , but we are in a slightly privileged position as we're not an alcopops sort of shop.

James Wrobel

Cornelius Beer & Wine


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