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Sheridan Coopers: wholesaler turned merchant

Published:  03 May, 2010

More and more independents are recognising that wholesaling gives them a valuable extra income stream, but the process can also work in reverse. A host of wine wholesalers have taken the plunge into retailing, among them Sheridan Coopers of Brighton.

The company already operates a Majestic-style warehouse shop in nearby Shoreham, trading as The Winehouse. It has recently opened a more traditional wine shop in The Lanes, the network of pedestrianised streets in the heart of Brighton's shopping area.

It's something of a gamble for the company, but director Andy Wiseman is hopeful that the store - named Sheridan Coopers - will help lift the profile of the company generally. "Is it a vanity project? I don't know," he says. "We don't do any advertising at all. We do zero marketing and we don't have a sales force - we sell purely by reputation. The shop lets people know that we're there."

The Winehouse sells around 700 lines, representing the entire range which Sheridan Coopers offers to its on-trade clients. It has an informal buying alliance with The Vineyard in Dorking and Taurus Wines in Guildford, and showcases the top 100 or 120 wines at the new shop in The Lanes. The average spend per bottle is around £18.

Sheridan Coopers is not the first wholesaler to move into wine retailing: the Four Vintners, the Flying Corkscrew and the Stanton Wine Company are among several who got there first.

"There is an opportunity in retail," says Wiseman. "But I wouldn't dream if it if I didn't have a solid wholesale business behind me. Good luck to all those people who are starting up - there are quite a lot of vibrant young businesses and some will do very well. But it's hard work. The trick is, don't even try to compete with the supermarkets."

Wiseman says he is unlikely to purchase more shops. "I would like a restaurant or a gastro-pub," he says, "and we'd like to have a partner negociant or vineyard. The retail part of our business is a bit of fun."