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New firm North South Wines ramps up activity

Published:  16 September, 2014

Newly-created North South Wines is planning to boost its team as it gets ready for a series of product launches in the coming months.

The company, which was started by former Ehrmanns staffers Kim Wilson and Joy Edmondson, joined by ex-Nymtimber finance chief Hamish Gillespie, is 52% owned by the management team, with 48% shared between its three winery partners Australia's De Bortoli, Italian wine outfit The Wine People and New Zealand's Waimea Family Estate Wines.

"The idea was always to have the business part producer and part management team owned," said Wilson, adding that from the initial concept the company grew very quickly. Arrangements between it and De Bortoli happened inside just three months - the Australian winery is now closing its standalone UK office. "Everyone is rationalising their supplier base - from the supermarkets right the way down," said Wilson, adding that North South offers a new route to market for some wineries.

The company has 19 wineries on its books now, and Wilson said this is the "perfect size for year one - it's not about overstretching ourselves".  Edmondson added:  "We're committed to being able to work with each winery but don't want any overlaps."

"We don't want there to be a feeling of shareholders versus agencies," Wilson emphasised.

She added that the group is a multi-channel supplier with around 50% of the business coming through supermarkets, 20% from impulse, 20% from independents and the remaining 10% via online.

Wilson worked for Ehrmanns for eight years, and Edmondson for 14 years, but both felt they were ready to move on. Wilson said: "It was time to fly the nest."

A number of clients, including Chile's Luis Felipe Edwards, followed Edmondson and Wilson when the new agency was set up. Wilson said the move "seemed natural" given the "relationships between us and the clients".

Gillespie worked for Nyetimber for the past 18 months, and before that Liberty Wines. "I always wanted to get back to the agency side - to be involved with a wide range of wines," he said.

North South Wines currently has a team of eight, and is looking to recruit two additional roles on the sales or brand ambassador side. It is planning a number of product launches over the next couple of months.