Virgin Wines has laid out ambitious plans to become the nation’s ultimate one-stop online shop for all drinks categories. 

The firm has made the switch from a pure wine retailer to a composite ecommerce store with more than 300 spirits and a wide range of craft beers.

Managing director Jay Wright told DRN: “We are working really hard to become a very credible one-stop shop for everybody’s drinks needs.

“It felt like something no one else was really doing. There is no one offering the wine portfolio that we do and then offering beer and spirits too.

“We have been working hard to get a really comprehensive, incredible list together and making sure it works seamlessly on the platform and working out all the packaging algorithms.”

Virgin turned to contacts in the industry, such as LWC and Enotria & Coe, to help create a strong range of craft beer and spirits. 

“My background is in wholesaling and my spirits knowledge is reasonably strong,” said Wright. “One of our existing buyers has a great knowledge of beer, and another has really good spirits knowledge. We have used some of the expertise of our friends in the industry to give us some pointers.

“Early signs are really good. It has given us confidence to employ a spirits category manager.”

Virgin is enjoying year-on-year growth of 13.6%. It has only just started selling beer and spirits, and like-for-like growth just on wine is 11.3%.

Wine will remain the main part of the business for the foreseeable future, and the company has no plans to change its name, but it has high hopes for the other categories.

Wright said: “We are getting down to exclusive lines. We will definitely go down the route of making our own spirits and beers. We need some volume before we can really think of that. I hope we can get some
real traction.

“We have no great desire to compete with Sainsbury’s and Asda on Bell’s and Smirnoff. We are trying to make sure that the product offering is fantastic. The last thing we want to do is build up a reputation for great wines and then dumb that down.”

It has kicked off with 100 gins, and it is trying to jump on emerging trends, such as the growth of mezcal, and be at the forefront of them. 

“It’s driving a new type of customer into the business,” said Wright. “It’s very much at the forefront of our business development. It’s early days, but the signs are more positive than we expected. 

“The feedback from existing customers has been great. We have a big digital and social campaign starting this quarter. It has been a huge undertaking to get ourselves to a place where we are able to do this.”

Virgin began by offering pre-packed cases of beer, such as a mixed lager selection and Trappist pack. It is now moving into mixed cases that allow shoppers to compile their own selections, and has just gone live with a beer subscription service called Beer Box.

It puts together a case of 12 specially selected craft beers every month for £35.88 and delivery is free.

This strategy puts it in competition with the likes of Master of Malt and Beer Hawk.

“We are going to be doing a lot of no and low-alcohol as well,” added Wright. “We are working really hard to become experts in all those different areas.

“We are 12% up on customer acquisition. That’s working better than ever. That gives us real confidence.”