Flourishing independent sector continues to expand

19 May, 2017
A number of independent wine retailers are on the expansion trail and the sector is thriving, says a group representing the sector.

Jessica Hutchinson, managing director of Vindependents, which represents a number of independent wine merchants in the UK, told DRN members’ sales are strong and regular enquiries are coming in from people looking to set up wine shops.

She said: “There seems to be a trend for not shopping in supermarkets and for buying local, and independent wine shops are part of this.”

The Kent-based Secret Cellar chain and London-based Vagabond are just two of the businesses represented by Vindependents that are actively looking at expansion, while DRN has news of others looking to add more stores.

Humble Grape, the London-based wine merchant and wine bar chain, has further expansion on the horizon following a successful crowdfunding campaign.

It is gearing up to open a site in Islington in June. The venue, which will be the third in the portfolio, will feature a Winemaker Wall and a library “rammed with all our favourite wine books”. A fourth site is on track to open in August this year.

Its recent crowdfunding campaign exceeded its £1 million target, netting £1.3 million. The investment will help with completion of the third and fourth sites, after which the company plans to launch a further two to four each year until it becomes a 20-site brand by 2022.

Founder and chief executive James Dawson said: “We consider that the timing is perfect for us to create optimal growth in this sector of the industry.

“We will use the funds to obtain two to four sites a year and to enhance the management team by bringing in two key players in operations and logistics.

Humble Grape was founded in 2009 and, five years later, Dawson raised £535,000 on Seedrs and from private investors, which enabled him to take the brand to the high street.

This flagship Battersea site was profitable within the first six months. The second site – on Fleet Street – saw revenue reach more than the forecast for the year within its first six months.

Elsewhere in the country the team behind the Beckford Arms pub has seen huge success from the Beckford Bottle Shop concept it opened in Tisbury, Wiltshire, a year ago.

Co-founder Dan Brod told DRN: “We have three gastropubs and we were selling a lot of wine, plus we had a lot of interest in our wine tasting events, so we thought we would open a retail outlet.

“Our thing is that we are not just an off-licence. We wanted to make use of our experience in hospitality because otherwise we couldn’t compete with Majestic and
other retailers.

“So it is a place for people to come and try out wine – a kind of village wine hangout. You can buy wine by the glass and we are flexible with this, and generous – we have to be competitive. It has done remarkably well, especially considering it is not a massive town.

“We are now looking at more outlets, mainly in the south west. We are hoping to open our second store soon in Frome, Somerset, and I would expect us to have three by the end of this year and three more next year.”

Brod added that where possible the company would look to add a food offer to future stores.

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