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Roberson plans expansion outside of London

Published:  31 January, 2019

Three years ago, dynamic, family-run business Roberson Wines took the decision to close its flagship store.

And now Harpers can reveal, the business is looking to expand its wholesale operations with Manchester and Birmingham pegged as likely hubs for expansion.

Since closing its doors on High Street Kensington, the California specialist has pooled its resources into its consumer website and its wholesale business while also launching London’s first urban winery, London Cru, in 2012 and selling to private clients.

Now it is gearing up to extend its out-of-London reach with the aim of bringing parity to the on- and off-trade sides of the wholesale business.

“Currently, 85% of our off-trade business is outside of London, partly thanks to the great relationships we have with companies like Harvey Nichols,” managing director, Talya Roberson, told Harpers. “Mags Janjo, our off-trade manager, has invested a lot of time and energy in getting out there and visiting people in their own market.”

Never afraid to take on a challenge, making bold moves has become one of the company’s USPs.

When the High Street Kensington shop opened in the early 1990s, it offered a blueprint for the modern indie, Talya said: “It was full of knowledge and education and had fantastic collection of around 1,000 wines. But closing means we have been able to transfer our skills and experience into selling directly to other premium retailers.”

In preparation for boosting on-trade distribution nationally, the company merged its on- and off-trade sales towards the backend of last year.

Part of the reason for this, Talya says, is that “The market is becoming more flexible. Just look at The Orrery. It has a bar, a deli and a restaurant selling across multiple channels.”

Another recent development has been the hiring of Alex Hurley at who will be assisting founder Cliff Roberson at London Cru.

As of 2017, all London Cru’s grapes come from English vineyards, with the Hurley and the Robersons recently homing in on Bacchus.

Hurley said: “Bacchus is perfect for the current English climate. It means we can consistently source high quality fruit and make quality English wine every year. If we want to add a bit of complexity we age it 5% in old oak. The result tastes great and is definably English.”

Talya is now looking ahead to SITT Manchester on February 25, where she will be further scoping out potential for distribution in the wider area.

For the full story, see the February issue of Harpers available in print and digital edition, now online for subscribers.

Top photo: Talya and Cliff Roberson