There are signs of positivity in specialist drinks retailing with several new bricks-and-mortar openings either in the pipeline or confirmed by leading independents.

Amathus Drinks is planning to open in Oxford and Wimbledon, south London, in the first quarter of 2024. It currently has seven shops in London and one each in Brighton and Bath.

Aberdeen independent Sugarbird Wines in opening its second hybrid site in the city in November, while Jeroboams opened its 10th London shop, in Chelsea’s King’s Road, in the summer.

Beth and Rob Maynard, co-owners of Hove’s Wild Flor restaurant, are making a first foray into retail in October with a store in Steyning, West Sussex, under the name Chanctonbury Wines.

Amathus commercial director Tom Miller told Drinks Retailing that the company is on the hunt for further London sites and thinks it can get to around 20 stores in total.

“Currently, about 75% of our operations are supplying to bars and restaurants, while about 25% is ecommerce and bricks-and-mortar retail,” he said. “We’re looking to move that to about 50/50, which will involve expanding our stores. We don’t want to have all our eggs in one basket, particularly following Covid when the on-trade closed down.”

Wild Flor’s Rob Maynard told DR that the opening of Chanctonbury Wines would be solely off-trade for the foreseeable future. “It won’t be a drink-in venue,” he said. “I’m keen to keep the operation clearly defined, and not sleepwalk into being a wine bar… for now.”

Rising high street footfall may be contributing to retail optimism. Retail location data specialist Place Informatics said there had been a marked shift in workers returning to offices in the past 12 months, resulting in footfall spikes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The biggest increases were seen in Bristol, Chester. Halesowen, Hull, Paisley, Poole, Wellingborough and York, along with Soho and Mayfair in London.

Of the bigger names in drinks retailing, Majestic Wine opened in Rugby in August and has said that it plans to add branches in Newark, Christchurch, Chippenham and north London’s Crouch End by Christmas. It is also recruiting 200 people to a mix of permanent and temporary roles across its stores in the run-up to Christmas in a move which it said “lays the foundations for future bricks-and-mortar growth”. It is aiming to beat its Christmas 2022 performance, which it said was the second biggest in its 43-year history.