Drinks Business Awards 2015: the winners

Fine Wine Retailer of the Year

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Giles Cooper of Bordeaux Index

Winner: Bordeaux Index

One company stood out this year for its ability to maintain healthy sales despite the challenging nature of the fine wine market, and that was Bordeaux Index. In particular the judges praised the retailer’s entrepreneurial spirit, attractive offers, and broad range.

Despite its name, diversification over the past five years has taken the operation’s sales of Bordeaux from 90% to just over 50% today. Nevertheless, the fine wine retailer has retained a strong following for Bordeaux by switching from selling en primeur to physical vintages, with best-sellers by value in the past year including châteaux Margaux and Latour from the 1996 vintage.

Elsewhere, Burgundy, Champagne and Italy remain strong, with the retailer’s new Italian buyer opening up direct access to top estates, tapping into a growing demand among UK collectors for fine wines from Tuscany and Piedmont. Early last year Bordeaux Index also opened up a new area of sales by employing a dedicated spirits buyer. Consequently the retailer’s range has grown to over 50 fine or rare whiskies among other spirits, ensuring sales have tripled in 2014. Finally, a further new development in 2014 was an online Customer Accounts, Valuation and Instant Broking system. In addition to showing customers’ complete Bordeaux Index transactional history in detail, this allows clients who hold wine in BI Reserves to instantly offer their wines for sale through the operation’s website. According to the business, this has opened a treasure trove of mature bottles for immediate sale.

Retail Buying Team of the Year

retailbuyingteamMorrissons

Mark Jarman and Clive Donaldson of Morrisons

Winner: Morrisons

This year it was the Morrisons team that impressed judges. Made up of 14 buyers representing 75 years’ industry experience, the team attracted particular praise for bringing an eclectic range of products to what is generally held to be a relatively cash-poor customer base.

Having overhauled the wine range and restructured the team over 12 months ago, the Morrisons team has achieved a 132% growth in own-brand sales and gained 131 awards for its own-brand wines. Driving such change has been the collaborative approach of the wine sourcing managers with the supermarket’s suppliers.

To exemplify the approach, Morrisons doubled the sales of its own-label Chablis Premier Cru last year by working with a new producer, while a gold at the International Wine Challenge for its own-label Grüner Veltliner saw sales jump to 160 cases per week. Similar trends were also witnessed in Morrisons’ beer and spirits ranges, prompting the judges to describe the team’s work as “tremendous”, with a strong emphasis on the buyers’ “personality”, while they applauded the effective “teamwork”, which sees wine sourcing managers focused on product quality and the buyers on commercial activities.

Shortlist:

• Waitrose

• Morrisons

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