UK independent wine sector ‘thriving’

Despite significant challenges the future of the UK’s independent wine retail sector looks bright, according to a recent report by Wine Intelligence that described it as “thriving”.

shopping-for-wineConsumers have never had more choice when it comes to purchasing wine with the number of independent UK retailers increasing by 50% since 2007 to 750.

The sector is now worth nearly £500 million and, according to the UK Independent Wine Retail 2015 report, is set to grow further.

The report found that value for money, knowledgable staff and a good wine selection were the most important factors for consumers choosing to shop at independent wine retailers, based on a survey of 1,001 regular wine drinkers.

Of those surveyed 55% said they “really like the range of wines on offer”, 39% liked being able to get recommendations from shop staff while 37% said they believed independent wine merchants offered good value for money.

However despite consumers being aware of independent merchants’ key selling points, just 13% said that they “sometimes” buy wines from independent specialists.

Many reported feeling intimidated by venturing inside an independent wine retailer, 11% of women and 6% of men, preferring instead to buy from supermarkets.

Other reasons given for not shopping at independent wine retailers was a perception that they were too expensive, or simply that there wasn’t an outlet nearby.

The sector is still more appealing to men with 17% of male wine drinkers choosing to shop in independents compared to just 10% of women.

Richard Halstead, Wine Intelligence chief executive officer said: “Independents arguably represent the most innovative and dynamic sector of the UK wine trade. There are challenges to overcome – attracting more female customers and changing perceptions that wines are expensive are two of the most urgent priorities. But the sector has proved remarkably resilient during turbulent economic times and there is every reason to believe that more growth will occur as the economy strengthens, and imaginative independents continue to add new elements to their offer.”

Despite the challenges, the report, published in partnership with The Wine Merchant magazine, predicts more growth for the UK independent wine sector as retailers diversify their offer. Enomatic-style wine dispensers allowing customers to sample wine before purchasing have undoubtedly added to value to many retailers, while more than half of independents either already sell wine for consumption on the premises, or are considering doing so.

Many more are introducing food to their stocks with cheese, meats and speciality breads becoming increasingly common.

For a snapshot of the sector and to find out which independent retailers are currently setting the pace, see our top 10 UK independent wine retailers part one and two.

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