28th August, 2014 by Gabriel Stone
In the second of a two part series, we take a look at five retailers making their mark in the UK independent wine scene.
Location: Five branches across Shrewsbury, Hereford, Welshpool, Bridgnorth and Llandudno. Recently opened a second Shrewsbury outlet called “Taste of Tanners”.
Range: Core range of 1,200 wines, spirits, soft drinks and beers; 800 “oddments” and fine wines
Specialities: “The best and most exciting wines we can find for the price; also wines from family growers.”
2013 turnover: £20m
The Tanner family has steered its historic business through a fair few economic downturns that have seen so many of the wine trade’s famous names fall by the wayside. Attributing this longevity to “sheer bloody-mindedness”, managing director James Tanner is not pretending that the journey has been a walk in the park. “One has got to be very sales driven and very sharp on cost control,” he warns. “There are no gimmicks that will save one in this business.”
As many customers tightened their belts in 2008, the company tweaked its offer accordingly. “We certainly had to adapt and be particularly cost conscious and sales driven during that period,” Tanner confirms. “Where we used to be able to ship more esoteric, expensive wines we’ve had to change our sourcing, but it’s coming back.”
As a sign of confidence in the road ahead, this summer has seen a significant extension to the retailer’s Shrewsbury flagship with the opening of a new shop right on the main street. Called “A Taste of Tanners”, the venue acts as a more accessible showcase for the merchant than its existing cellars at the back of company headquarters. Tanners is also using this high profile spot to introduce sampling for the first time, with the WineEmotion dispensing system currently on trial. “It’s early days but it’s been very busy, especially towards the end of the week,” reports Tanner, who adds: “We’ve always been uncomfortable about mixing drinking with retail in our shops – this is more of a separate place for that.” An important part of this new showcase is the merchant’s extensive own label range, which “is doing very well” according to Tanner. “You have to be very confident in the quality, but when we put a wine under our own label it multiplies sales very quickly,” he reveals.
With sales split “about 50/50 between private and trade” the company’s private customer offer is currently spread across its five shops, mail order and online sales, which account for around 30% of that revenue. As for the future, Tanner outlines a straightforward strategy to “push on with selling more in each channel.” Would that extend to opening another shop? “Certainly if the right opportunity comes up,” he remarks, “but I don’t want to be running a huge chain.”