Top 10 independent wine retailers pt 127th August, 2014 by Gabriel Stone
You could be forgiven for thinking that the UK’s independent wine retail sector was in the middle of an exciting revival.
From the ashes of fallen giants such as Wine Rack, Oddbins and Threshers have arisen small clusters of eager new enterprises. Meanwhile the rise of online shopping has spawned a host of internet-based wine operations, using their low overheads to undercut traditional high street merchants. Wine lovers have never had so much choice, although whether that’s a good thing is a whole different area of debate.
Despite the feel-good mantra that these smaller players offer a compelling alternative to the supermarkets, it’s difficult to dispel a sneaking feeling that many are simply in competition with each other. That said, the recent expansion of several wine retailers in London indicates that the biggest UK metropoleis are capable of supporting a colourful array of specialists alongside the bigger players.
In order to build a picture of what’s really going on in the UK independent sector, the challenges, changes and opportunities that are shaping its modern landscape, we shone a spotlight on 10 merchants from every corner of the country. Some have been around for centuries, others sprung up in the middle of the recent downturn; a few have built their business around a single location, several are in the process of opening new outlets. However, for all their diversity of size, site and specialism, what unites these operations is evidence of a dynamic outlook that balances a deep love and knowledge of wine with a pragmatic understanding of what it takes to stay afloat in their chosen sector today. It’s also worth noting that not a single one relies entirely on pure off-trade retail sales: a strong wholesale customer base or a hybrid wine bar offering stand out as two particularly crucial sources of revenue.
Above all however, these snapshots manage to combine a hard hitting dose of realism for anyone entertaining the idea of setting up their own wine business with an inspiring vista of a thriving independent retail landscape. For those consumers – and indeed producers – who value this type of environment, each of the merchants featured here reinforces the UK’s long-held reputation as one of the most attractive wine markets on the planet.
Scroll through to find out which independent retailers are currently making waves in the UK wine scene…