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Roberson Wine to close Kensington shop to focus future on more 'dynamic' channels

Published:  06 July, 2015

Roberson Wine is set to close its flagship Kensington High Street shop on August 30, 2015 to focus its future growth on "sectors that are really showing the most dynamic growth."

The decision to close the iconic shop, which opened on the 19th November 1991, was not one taken lightly revealed Adam Green, the business development director and Mark Andrew the senior wine buyer in an exclusive interview with

"The lease renewal was this year and that was really the catalyst for the decision. However, we obviously wouldn't make a decision of this importance that lightly. In fact, what has really been kicking around in the background for us was much more of a strategic issue and where we see Roberson developing over the next five to ten years. After weighing it out very throughly we feel that now was the right time for us to exit the bricks and mortar retail environment," said Green.

The team has over the last few years seen the direction of the company shifting with far more of the company's turnover being attributed to its B2B offerings.

"Its a testimony to how fantastic the shop has been for us and how strongly everyone associates it with the company.  But actually the internal perspective for us is very different. We know that primarily Roberson is really a B2B business and those are the sectors that are really showing the most dynamic growth, particularly as we have taken on more agency specialists.  California obviously being a big success there" said Andrew.

Green agreed. He said: "The external perception of what the shop means within the business of what is Roberson Wine is a bit out of kilter with the reality today. That doesn't mean we don't love the shop and have a massive amount of affection for it.  We are tasked with making this business the best business it can be today, tomorrow and for the future. The entire team is all on board with the decision that has been taken to invest in other sectors."  

The shop is "about 13% of our total turnover. On-trade will be about 40% this year," said Green.

Further he said the shop had its best year ever, but is not expanding as rapidly as the other divisions within the business."The shop is having its best ever year this year, this is one of the ironies of it.  They're going to be up around 10% on last year.  The guys there have had an absolutely fantastic year" said Green.

Despite the strong performance, the entire leadership team recognises that they need to make investments now that will provide the greatest return in getting them were they want to be in the future.  "It is a classic SME dilemma where you have certain amount of resources.  But you have to ask: 'Where are you best deploying those resources and how is that going to get you where you want to be in five or ten years time?'" he said. 

The company will be investing more into growing its sales team to better service the independent sector as well as continuing to expand its on-trade team.  

"Independent retail is a really fragmented sector which is one of the things that makes it such a fascinating and dynamic sector. But it also means that if you are going to service that sector properly you have to have the human resources to do it and the will to form a strategic proposition to really drive into that sector and make a difference. Over the next five to ten years, we really want to establish ourselves as very important supplier to that part of the industry," said Green.

Being that Roberson has had its own retail shop for many years it is familiar with some the challenges that independents can have in dealing with suppliers to the sector, particularly around channel management.

Green said: "We would like to think that we are quite familiar with the challenges that are faced by independents and the types of products that are of interest to them. We would like to bring that to bear on a department that is focused on servicing that part of the industry."

"Independent off-trade is an area that historically we have not been able to sell much wine into. There are a variety of reasons for that, one of which is we really haven't had the time, the energy and resources that you need to dedicate to it," explained Andrew.

Equally Green believes psychologically because they had their own retail shop, other independents may have hesitated to do business with them. He said: "While some people may see a lot of themselves in what we were doing as a store, it also discouraged people from working with our products that we represent because it was already on the high street so to speak.

Online will continue to be a focus for Roberson, with the innovative wine-on-tap delivery system becoming an increasingly more important part of the company's on-trade offering going forward.

Read the complete interview in the upcoming July edition of Harpers.