Slurp aims to become UK's leading premium online retailer

Copestick Murray has unveiled plans to turn Slurp into the UK’s leading premium online drinks retailer after buying a 40% stake in the business. 

Managing director Robin Copestick believes we are entering a golden age for digital retailing and said the firm wanted to be at the heart of it. He also highlighted the need for businesses to diversify in this cut-throat era of consolidation.

He told DRN: “Consolidation is happening everywhere and I am absolutely convinced it will continue, so you have either got to be big or niche, and those in the middle are not going to survive. You have to be diverse and have scale.

“Our plan is for Copestick Murray to become one of the most diverse and successful wine companies in the UK and Ireland.”

Slurp offers 900 wines, with an average price point of £14, and its premium position appealed to Copestick Murray and its parent company, German wine producer Henkell.

Copestick said: “When we had a strategy meeting with Henkell, we agreed that digital retailing is going to be very big – much bigger than it already is. We all agreed we should be part of that. We wanted knowledge of digital retailing and the best way to understand it is to be involved in it. We also wanted a route to market for our wines.

“We are under no illusions. We are never going to be as big as the Wine Society or Laithwaite’s. We would like to be the number one premium retailer online and that’s very realisable.” 

Henkell, part of multinational corporation Dr Oetker, bought a 60% stake in Copestick Murray in 2013 and purchased the remainder last year. Since then, UK sales of wines, beers and spirits owned by Henkell – which has a wide range of prestigious sparkling and still wines from around the world in its portfolio – have soared. 

Meanwhile, exports of Copestick Murray’s most successful creation, the I Heart brand, have grown exponentially, and the business opened an office in Dublin last year.

Copestick said: “It’s important for us as a company not just to be selling a lot of relatively inexpensive wine to supermarkets. That will probably always be the core of Copestick Murray and I am very proud of the progress we are making, but I also want to do lots of different things. We have started with spirits and beer and we are going to do even more of them next year. I have other ambitions as well to do something interesting, innovative and exciting in the on-trade.”

Slurp also has two bricks and mortar stores, in Banbury and Leamington, and was seeking capital investment to grow the online business. It was bought by SH Jones in 2013 and is now jointly owned by Copestick Murray, Richard Jones, Hugh Taylor and James Keef. Taylor, the managing director, said Copestick Murray’s investment would help it “scale the business and establish Slurp as a major premium online UK wine retailer”. It is competing with the likes of Berry Bros & Rudd, which is moving more into the online sphere, but Copestick is relishing the challenge.

“We want to concentrate on finding new, good, interesting wines at £10 to £40,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

When asked if he has plans to follow in the footsteps of the all-conquering Conviviality, Copestick said: “I am not saying we want to be as big as Conviviality. We have the option. It’s not within the Copestick Murray ambition to have as many retail shops as it does, but I like the diversity it has, with Peppermint, Bibendum, PLB – Conviviality is a big success story. I certainly do not want to be like Conviviality, but what has happened with Conviviality is going to happen again with other companies and other suppliers. 

“Consolidation will continue. There’s going to be direct selling going on. When we are having tough negotiations about the price of wine, having different strings to our bow helps.”