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Independents prepare to fill the gap left by Majestic

Published:  11 April, 2019

The Majestic brand has taken a bullet and is soon to be haemorrhaging stores – prompting businesses to reconsider their position on the high street.

In the wake of Majestic’s decision to siphon off part of its 200-store estate, several independent businesses have communicated to Harpers that they see an opportunity to expand their retail and wholesaling arms.

Unphased by the challenges faced by Oddbins and Majestic, The Oxford Wine Company is one such business looking at options for expansion within the local area.

“I really am surprised [at Majestic’s decision],” Ted Sandbach, the group’s managing director, said. “It takes years to build a brand, but rents and rates and the cost of employing staff has obviously been a major consideration.

“I am amazed but really delighted as there will always be customers who want to see wine and talk to experts and taste. This will only help us.”

Businesses say they are also preparing to plug a potential supply gap.

With Oddbins and Majestic falling on hard times, the mid-market is in danger of disappearing, meaning fewer routes to market for producers and less choice for customers.

Cambridge’s managing director Hal Wilson noted: “There are fewer large companies to work with in the UK. Oddbins is in administration and Rowan Gormley is taking Majestic further away from the original Majestic model.”

It is currently unclear how many of Majestic’s 200 stores the company plans to sell, and how many it plans to keep under the Naked name.

For many, the rebrand has been difficult to comprehend given Naked’s core customer base is its online ‘Angels’.

Keeping the two businesses separate was one of the promises Rowan Gormley made when he came on board as chief executive in 2015.

The other – to achieve £500m in revenue in three years – has come to pass.

But it remains to be seen how the two customer bases will react to the migration of Majestic’s wine into Naked and vice versa, which seems inevitable if the Majestic side of the business is pared back and the Naked name attached to remaining fascias.

Who better than the independent trade, with their expanding wholesale arms and quality portfolios, to pick up the slack?

For the full article, see the April edition of Harpers.