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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Jack Hibberd

Off-licence group Unwins - which last week admitted it was in need of a cash injection and was considering a sale of the business - has unveiled a revolutionary new retail concept in an attempt to win over upmarket wine consumers. The new retail brand, Phillips Newman Wine Merchants, will be a departure from traditional store formats by segmenting the 225 wines on offer into six flavour profiles - Bright, Smooth, Rounded (for whites) and Fruity, Mellow and Chunky (for reds) - rather than country of origin or price. The Phillips Newman' Stores (the name of the original importer, bonder and bottler and subsequently its wholesale business name) also have a central tasting area featuring a wine from each of the six groups, as well as a social area' featuring comfortable chairs and sofas. It's an "intelligent rather than intellectual" approach to wine retailing,' said Ian McLernon, marketing director at Unwins. We want to have in-store tasting all day, every day, as it is the key to convincing consumers to trade up. No one wants to spend much because they cannot taste the product. We want to make wine the hero and concentrate on wines in the 5-15 price bracket.' The first Phillips Newman store opened this week in Kensington - with the concept presented to the trade at the Wine Redefined seminar at the LIWSF. McLernon is confident that around 50 to 60 stores' have the potential to be converted to the new format, which requires a minimum of 750 sq feet (70 sq m), although Unwins obviously needs funds (one of the reasons it called for a cash injection) to carry out the plan. McLernon said that the remainder of the 388-strong Unwins Group would return to doing what it does best' and be an intrinsic part of the local community - open when required with a credible range at reasonable prices' with a focus on all alcoholic drinks, not just wine. We've been insular in the past but we want to return to our core brand. There is a role for a specialist off-licence that is clearly positioned.' He added that the present focus was on containing costs, not cutting costs; we've already done that. Now we want to concentrate on investment.'