Inspiring Indies: Vino

Vino is a chain of four independent off-licences that rose from the ashes when Wine Rack went into administration in 2009. Three stores opened in 2010 and a fourth in 2011, with the aim of taking the best parts of the old Wine Rack business to create a place where customers feel comfortable — a shop environment that is easy to navigate, with well-trained, accessible staff.

The chain also has an e-commerce website with a blog and videos on wine-tasting basics, and its wide-ranging and eclectic wine range makes it much more than just a local wine merchant.

We talked to Andrew Lundy, one of the three entrepreneurs who teamed up to launch the business four years ago, and who is responsible for the day-to-day running of the business.

Sum up your shop in one sentence: Independent, local and different.

What sets you apart from other drinks retailers? A younger approach in an established and sometimes stuffy market; we will try anything and aim to be different.

Who is your fiercest competitor? Same as everyone else: Tesco, Waitrose and customers’ imagined prices on the shelves of those shops. Independents must not think of each other as competitors as we are all in the same boat trying to keep each other strong and fighting the bland shelves of multiples.

And how do you maintain an edge over them? Service and just being better in every way we can.

How do you keep customers coming back? We are in Scotland and sell alcohol, do you understand what you’re asking? Seriously though, we hope that the layout of our stores and the products we work very hard to find make it worth coming back, but the most important part of it is our fantastic staff.

What area of the business is performing best at the moment? Gin is big just now and over the past few years the beer category has become an important area, transformed from when we first opened.

What’s your biggest challenge as a retailer? Finding time.

Can you give us your top retailing tip? Some retailers think that dust is an added extra.

What has been your biggest business mistake? Trusting a promise. Get it in writing.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

What is your connection to Oz Clarke (pictured with you, above)? He was in our shop for a tasting when the Three Wine Men came to Edinburgh. He attended a customer tasting and thrilled the locals.

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