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Merchants across the country gather for Harpers March for the Independents conference

Published:  02 March, 2015

Independent wine merchants from across the UK will be heading to London tomorrow for Harpers March for the Independents conference offering business insights, advice and the chance to network with fellow retailers.

The day will kick off with the results of the exclusive Harpers survey of independent wine merchants which has canvassed their views on everything from average turnover, price per bottle of wine, numbers of staff they employ, the wages they pay and benefits they offer, through to the importance of online retailing, wholesaling and how well they are working with suppliers. 

The day will also offer merchants expert advice from both fellow independents, industry consultants, lawyers, tax specialists and update them on the latest regulatory changes around issues as wide as duty deferement,  online selling, recycling and wine fraud.

The event is the culmination of four weeks of campaigning activity here on that has looked to put the spotlight firmly on the issues that matter to independent merchants.

Expert business advice

Tomorrow's one day conference, being held at London's St Ermin's Hotel, will then bring many of those issues to the debating floor giving independents the chance to share their own experiences with each other as well as hear from experts across a number of different fields.

For example, Tim Wilson of the Wilson Drinks Report will assess the latest off-trade data and pick out the key trends relevant to independent merchants.

Andrew ParkAndrew ParkAndrew Park

Lawyer Andrew Park from App Wine Law will take a detailed look at how changes to online retailing and "distance selling" could have big implications for wine merchants. He will also examine how independents that are part of joint buying groups need to ensure they are legally protected, particularly when trading in fine wine. 

David Richardson from the Wine & Spirit Trade Association will take independents through their obligations when it comes to recycling of glass and packaging on imported wine which it could result in heavy fines if avoided. He will also assess independents and their obligations in regards to duty and tax payments for imported wine and spirits.

David Sables of Sentinel Management, who trains top grocery suppliers, including drinks producers, in how to negotiate with the major supermarkets, will share insights on how independents can best work with their suppliers.

He will be joined by consultant Angela Mount, former head wine buyer at Somerfield, who will offer her top tips on how to negotiate with suppliers.

Tim North and Guillaume Bonnefoi of leading French producers, Les Grands Chais de France and Castel respectively, will look at the steps they have taken to work closer with independents. 

Frank Webster, campaigns director, at Seedrs, which has helped merchants such as Humble Grape raise financing, will explain how crowdfunding schemes work and the opportunities it offers for wine merchants.

Chris Poad, director of the seller service at Amazon will offer advice on how independents can make the most of their online offer, as well as explain how Amazon wants to work with them. He will be joined by Justin Howard-Sneyd, who will share his experiences at Waitrose and Direct Wines and more recently as owner of his own French vineyard about how to build and maintain customer loyalty online.

Mike GreeneMike Greene

Mike Greene, business entrepreneur and specialist in convenience retailing, will offer his personal insights in to what makes a good local, community retailer.

The day is being supported by leading wine suppliers and producers who will not only have a selection of wines to taste on the day, but will offer their advice and feedback during the sessions. These include Treasury Wine Estates, Les Grands Chais de France, Castel, Codorniu, Ehrmanns and Amazon.

Ben Stephenson, Hangingditch

Independents have their say

The day will also feature a strong line-up of independent wine merchants

Top independent wine merchants will look at how they have been able to grow and expand their businesses. This will include direct advice from Matt Harris of Planet of the Grapes, Ted Sandbach, Oxford Wine Company, Stephen Finch of Vagabond Wines, Ben Stephenson of Hangingditch, Muriel Chatel of Borough Wines and Alexis Meszoly of D and D London and the New Street Wine Shop.

Ruth Yates of Corks Out will look at how merchants can build their online sales offer. 

Hal Wilson of Cambridge Wine Merchants will discuss the issue of bonding wine in the UK and how the use of duty deferements could help independents.

Matthew HenningsMatthew Hennings

He will be joined on a panel looking at the best way to import wine directly by Jamie Hutchinson of the Sampler and Matthew Hennings of Hennings Wine Merchants along with Nicholas MacSwiney, regional sales manager at Ehrmanns. 

The day is being supported by leading wine suppliers and producers who will not only have a selection of wines to taste on the day, but will offer their advice and feedback during the sessions. These include Treasury Wine Estates, Les Grands Chais de France, Castel, Codorniu, Ehrmanns, Amazon and Alpine Wines. 

The day is still open to all independent wine merchants in the UK to register. Full details of how to register are at the dedicated MarchfortheIndependents website.

Independents can still take part in the Action Week activities online here at in the Campaigns and March for the Independents section.

The Action Week campaigns taking place throughout February include:

Ruth Yates