Cardiff-based Fine Wines Direct UK is an importer with a bonded warehouse and a burgeoning retail operation. Director Greg Williams tells Drinks Retailing how the shop – both physical and online – is evolving
We purchased the building in 2008 and launched the retail side in late 2009. We’ve expanded over the past 12-18 months into the building next door. We’ve got a great reputation in Wales, and we always felt there was a lack of a serious wine shop where you could buy the length and breadth of a range – starting at entry level through to Cru Classé.
About 5-10% of our business is retail through the shop door. There’s about another 5% online, so retail is about 10-15% of our business. We rebuilt our ecommerce website during Covid as the old system was becoming defunct. We built it with a wine club attached and we really smartened up the look and the functionality. It has proved a real asset. For the total business, our annual turnover is £12 million excluding VAT, so retail is 10-15% of that.
We have supplier profiles on the ecommerce site and that helps drive sales. Online, we offer a 10% discount on 12 mixed bottles and then there are postage and packaging costs, so this means the average spend is not quite the same as the shop. Someone might come into the shop and buy 10 cases, for example.
We have an events space, and we work with local chefs. We’re looking to supply the best on-trade in the south west, so we have worked with chefs such as Bryn Williams and Stephen Terry who create small dishes for pairings at events. We have a full licence and our space is event-led, but we are working on a terrace at the front to develop our hybrid operation. We’ve also got a WSET school. We’re trying to build up the knowledge around wine – that has been quite a big mission for us.
We have a solid local customer base in Cardiff . We do local drops in our own fleet of vehicles, which we also use for the on-trade side. Our online customer base is national, and we envisage retail will grow, especially since we are able to keep the stock here with our import and bond business. We’ve got the volumes and the range.
We’ve been collecting en primeur for about 30 years. We trade a bit, buy a bit, drink a bit. We invested about £200,00 in the last vintage – mostly Bordeaux. We tend to break a case and offer it to customers and when it’s finished, we offer something else. At the moment, we’ve got Haut-Brion 2001, Margaux 2002. Vintage port is a big thing as well. We’ve got a huge selection, some back to the ’60s. We tend to sell loads of these wines to private as well as corporate customers. But we’ve also got our bargain bin end wines at £5 a bottle.