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Virgin Wines full-year results reveal business "ahead of schedule"

Published:  04 November, 2015

Virgin Wines boss Jay Wright says the company is "ahead of schedule" on a three-year plan put in place after its management buyout from Direct Wines in 2013.

The company is revamping its "Interflora of the wine world" gift service in time for Christmas and plans to expand the number of one-to-one wine advisors in its core online business in 2016.

The gift delivery service was launched as Gifts By Virgin Wines in late 2014 and is now being rebranded as as a standalone profit centre within the overall Virgin Wines business.

Wright said: "The test worked well so we thought we would try to capitalise on that in time for Christmas. It's still just about wine and Champagne for now and we'll have 'powered by Virgin Wines' in the offering, but obviously the new name does give us some flexibility should we decide we want to develop it."

Virgin is using a store on the Amazon website as one way of bringing in new customers to the service and Wright said he hoped to increase its customers base by 50% and triple its turnover to £1 million by July 2016.

"Naturally that's off a small base but we're aiming to sell 30,000-plus gifts next year. We're using Amazon and some pay-per-click and search engine opitmisation to drive new customers and we're advertising digitally and in print."

Virgin Wines has reported an increase in turnover from its main online business of 13% in the year to July 3, its first full financial year since the MBO. Annual sales nudged £40 million and trading profit stood at £4.3 million.

Active customer numbers rose by 40,000 to 190,000 and subscribers to its pay-monthly Wine Bank service rose from 40,000 to 50,000.

It has 34 personal wine advisors, who each give one-to-one service to an average of 1,000 customers.

"Some of those we speak to every two to three weeks, others every two months," Wright added. "It's about finding out what individual customers want and tailoring the service to them. When I started with the business in 2008 we had eight advisors and now we have 34.

"We're focusing on growing the wine advisor team, bringing as many new customer as we can into the Wine Bank scheme and delivering a fantastic proposition to our whole customer base.

"I prefer to think in terms of setting key objectives [around products and service] rather than having a set of numbers to hit. If you do those things well the numbers will follow.

"We are ahead of schedule in our plans and we want to ensure that to stay there."