Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Independent wine merchants celebrate festive fillip

Published:  06 January, 2015

Independent wine merchants across the country are toasting a cracking December, with sales up across the board.

This year businesses outside of London recorded the strongest growth, as operators said the recession started to lift in the regions.

Ruth YatesCorks Out founder Ruth Yates is celebrating a cracking ChristmasIndependent merchants across the country are toasting festive sales uplifts from 12 to 25% as consumer confidence improves in the regions. 

Ruth Yates of Corks Out in Cheshire, said December was 26% up on last year, with margin up 2.5%. Its web sales grew by over 200% in December "exceeding all of our expectations". Stellar performers included Champagne and the group's 500-strong spirits range, which saw an uplift of 55%. She said the average bottle spend on wine went up by £15 too.

Neal McAlindon of Belfast's Direct Wine Shipments saw retail sales up 12% in December and trade up 15 to 20% in the same period versus last year. Overall the group said 2014 was 20% up year on year on 2013. McAlindon attributed the growth to a "lot of success with local restaurants" which was attracting a younger clientele to its shop, as well as increased e-marketing and events. Its tie-in with South African wine Ballybosch - made by rugby stars Ruan Pienaar and Robbie Diack - has also attracted "a new crowd", with the result that it has already sold out of its red blend and is now waiting on its second container to arrive.

Chris Piper saw "really good uplift" of 16% in retail sales and 25% wholesale in November and December at his south-west-based business. He said average bottle spend was also up from £7.50 to £8.20 on the previous year. Piper said there was an increase in spend on the "upper middle range" of wines from across Europe, as well as the more expensive New World ones. "We're in the West Country - there's no London influence, but gradually people are feeling happier. We lag behind London - we're not out of our recession yet."

Hal Wilson of Cambridge Wine Merchants said sales were up, though not dramatically, but that it was still its "best-ever month".

Toby Peirce of Brighton's Quaff said Christmas was "not quite as good as last year" with sales up by 4 or 5% in December. But given year-on-year sales were up one third on the previous year, Peirce said he "wasn't that bothered". He said the quieter December was due to corporate spend continuing to fall back. "We look to do £100-120,000 over Christmas, so to lose £10k of that in corporate spend is a lot to regain in retail sales.

Jamie Hutchinson of the Sampler in London, said Christmas was up and down.  Of its two shops, Islington did very well while the South Kensington outlet "struggled a bit" as many of the very wealthy clientele left town between Christmas and New Year. The result was a 6% upturn in business in Islington and 3% fall in sales in South Kensington. "It was pretty good until just right at the end", Hutchinson said.

He said the average bottle price fell, while traffic increased - transactions were up 10%, but the average purchase was down 3-4% by value. "We did fine at £20 to £40 per bottle but over £100 didn't really sell. That's probably economy-led, as the cost of living is still rising faster than wages," he said.