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Looking ahead: Ted Sandbach, managing director, Oxford Wine Company

Published:  13 August, 2019

As the first half of 2019 draws to a close, Harpers asked key trade figures to highlight the current challenges, ongoing trends and opportunities

We continue our series with insights from Ted Sandbach, managing director, Oxford Wine Company

How has the first half of 2019 been when compared to the same period in 2018?

Our figures are up on last year which is extremely encouraging despite the doom and gloom surrounding small businesses. The Oxford Wine Café - although run as a separate business - has also been having a very successful year so far compared with 2018.

What were the highs and lows for your own business in the first six months of 2019?

Firstly we’ve strengthened our team considerably with some really good quality new appointments and removed a little bit of dead wood in the process. The Turl Street shop, despite being shrouded in scaffolding, has been massively successful and shown huge growth. This is great for general exposure and also wonderful for cash flow. We have also refurbished the outside of our head office to bring the image in line with our other outlets. The only real low that springs to mind is the fact that some trade customers are being slow to pay and too much time is wasted chasing bad debt.

What, currently, are the biggest challenges for the trade?

Obviously Brexit over which we have no control, so I’ll ignore that.

As always persuading people to spend a little more on their wine in order to get value for money is an issue with some of the major supermarkets continuing to promote the bottom end.

Will you be preparing in any way for a second potential ‘no deal’ or some deal Brexit day on 31 October and, if so, how?


Taking current trading conditions into account, what’s your strategy for meeting those challenges during the second half of the year, leading up to the crucial Christmas trading period?

Nothing has changed. We are very quality driven and with new MW Nancy Gilchrist becoming strongly involved in our wine selection we continue to concentrate on interesting well made wines from smaller producers. With the appointment of two new managers in our stores we intend to really concentrate on developing the shopping experience – we have invested in Coravins for all retail shops and members of the trade sales team to drive sales of more interesting, esoteric and premium wines.

What will the focus be on with regard to your portfolio (and any updates) and why?

We’re continuing to focus on wines from the Languedoc and fortified wines. We have also introduced five wines from China and are shipping a pallet across from Greece. We’re slowly moving away from relying too much on UK agencies and looking where possible to ship direct. Much of this is driven by sending key members of the buying team to the big international wine fairs.

For you, what are the most significant emerging trends in the drinks world?

A trend towards lower consumption which may hit the discounters more than independent merchants with a focus on quality. Organic and biodynamic continue to grow in importance – we have been responding both in how we buy wine and by making sure all the relevant information is available to our customers. We are prepared to move with the times and adjust. With so many young enthusiastic new members of the company we try to be aware of the modern trends rather than being a stick in the mud old school wine merchant.

What innovations in the drinks world do you believe will have the most impact going forward?

The Coravin has already revolutionised the wine bar scene – it has been extremely successful in our own café. We are now offering Château Lafite by the glass! It is a very important marketing tool in shops and trade, which will ultimately save us money.

What, for you, would make for a perfect summer?

Enjoying the rays and cultivating my vegetables whilst managing to fit in plenty of cricket watching preferably with a glass of decent rose at hand while everyone else runs the business (which they do anyway!)