Improved freight costs and favourable currency movements mean that, for the first time in years, UK retailers will not be charged more for wine in 2015, according to a leading supplier.

Andrew Bewes, managing director at Hallgarten Druitt, said the supplier is about to publish a price list and “for once we will not have to put prices up”.

With the abolition of the much-maligned duty escalator and the prospect of a cut on duty in the next Budget, retailers could see margins boosted if fellow suppliers keep prices as they are.  

Bewes said: “The most interesting thing in the trade at the moment is where we all are on price. Everybody is pulling in the same direction.

“On the back of improved foreign exchange and improved freight prices won’t rise. We will pass considerable savings on to customers, after a long time of it going one way.

“That could lead to some deflation. It’s a challenge and an opportunity. We are all so used to price inflation but for once it’s a very different scenario, so we are in for exciting times.”

Just a quarter of Hallgarten’s business is in the off-trade, but it is ramping up its focus on independent wine merchants.

Bewes said: “One aim this year is to work with independents to build up an alliance with a common goal of selling more quality wine.

“We are very, very effective at helping restaurants up-sell and we are learning how to help independents up-sell.”

Hallgarten poured new wines from Italy, Portugal, Argentina and Croatia at a recent London tasting, while showcasing new additions to its portfolio from South Africa, Greece and Sardinia.

Bewes believes it is time for his firm to become more vocal. “We have operated below the radar to a certain extent,” he said. “There’s only so long you can keep doing that. We have a £45 million turnover and 40-odd people knocking on doors.

“When I joined Hallgarten five years ago it was a company that was just getting on with it. We have had a refocus and brought in new blood, we have kept some of the best things we had, like supplier relationships that have stood for more than 50 years, but now it’s a matter of accepting that we are in the spotlight as the trade consolidates and there are only four or five of us with turnover in excess of £40 million operating nationally.

“It’s about making sure people understand what we’re about and promoting what we can do to help our customers sell wine, to get ourselves seen as a partner and not just a supplier.

“We have an interesting, balanced portfolio. We have a range of core suppliers that operate in all sectors of the market and we work with a massive number of independents and all the multiples, but we haven’t brought the focus to our range that we should have. We were just getting on with the job.

“We are very realistic in that we have some way to go, but we are focusing a lot of effort on independents.

“I have a lot of faith in hand-selling. Independents need to be good businessmen and they need a passion for wine. Good operators will come to the fore.”