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BBR to extend 'gravitational pull' with new focus on less expensive wines

Published:  06 October, 2016

Berry Bros & Rudd hopes a new commercial focus on less expensive quality wines could deliver greater reach and boost off-trade sales

Berry Bros & Rudd (BBR), the Queen's wines and spirits merchant, may have recently revitalised an 18th century service of weighing customers, but the company now hopes a new commercial focus on less expensive quality wines could have more far-reaching impact on balancing off-trade sales.

As many as 11 of the 26 new wines in BBR's autumn range, including wines from South Africa, Spain and Argentina, are selling for under £15 with nine of them priced between £15 and £30. And with these price points, employees at BBR now want to change the perception that wine purchased at Britain's oldest wines and spirit merchant are drunk on special occasions having been aged in the cellar. There is a new focus on what one employee calls "everyday" wines.

"There is an ambitious change to how we are perceived and what you come to BBR for," says Mark Pardoe MW, Wine Director at BBR.

"Of course we have a loyal customer base; we can't loose sight of what we stand for, but in the modern commercial world, we need to extend our gravitational pull," he says.

Pardoe told that BBR's new commercial focus has emerged after a newspaper wine critic told him last year that she could not recommend any of BBR wines for Christmas because their wines were too expensive. BBR brokers wine and sells to the on-trade with off-trade sales accounting for only about 10 to 15% of sales. BBR says the push to sell more wine off-trade is about accessibility; letting people know what BBR has to offer without diminishing quality. BBR's push to sell more off-trade reflects uncertain global economic times ahead of the implementation of Brexit.

BBR's latest accounts for 2016 filed at Companies House in July, show annual wine and spirit sales fell 4.4% to £145 million compared to last year. BBR however has managed to drastically reduce losses which are down from £6.1 million in 2015 to £640.000 this year, as well as reporting an operating profit of £1.46m. It has reported exceptional losses from restructuring the company and closing down its office in Singapore, but it has also made exceptional gains having won a settlement over a legal dispute with a supplier in Hong Kong.

As part of an investment in IT systems, BBR's new e-commerce platform SAP Hybris will go live this year. BBR has also looked to strengthen its finances with the appointment of Christopher Robinson as Chief Financial Officer, in March.

BBR managing director Dan Jago says the company's business is overall "good" but that some of the top end restaurants it supplies wine to are not doing so well.

Even so, Jago also reckons that this could be down to competition; the fact that there just too many restaurants in London. Jago says that although he was in favour of Britain remaining in the EU, he remains "optimistic" about the future of the country despite what he decsibes as the "bloody nightmare" of the fall of the pound.

But to what extent is BBR changing its wine range as it adapts to market conditions?

Jago says that top Bordeaux and Burgundy will continue to make up the core of BBR's wine business. But with the new focus on less expensive wines, Jago says there is more the company can do in places such as South Africa.

Top picks of new wines featured in BBR Autumn wine range:

Under £15: 2014 Bodega Del Desierto Malbec, Patagonia, Argentina £13.95

2015 Bodega Del Desierto Pinot Noir, Patagonia, Argentina £12.50

2015 Mullineux Kloof Street Chenin Blanc, Swartland South Africa, £14.50

2014 Mullineux Kloof Street Red, Swartland South Africa £14.50

2014 Hacienda del Carmen, Arlanza Spain, £14.95

Under £40:

2015 Extramendi Bodegas Pazo Tizan, Ribeiro Spain, £18.75

2013 Circe Pinot Noir, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia, £32.95