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Laytons ‘reinvigorates’ wine list and strategy

Laytons has boosted its wine range by around 15% as it focuses on a new strategy to reinvigorate its wholesale business.

Layton’s sales director Peter Mitchel MW

The independent wine merchant, which constitutes the wholesale arm of London retailer Jeroboams, has virtually doubled its range of Italian wines with the addition of 53 new wine. It has signed up 22 new producers, the majority of whom are unavailable elsewhere in the UK, in a conscious bid to build its reputation as a supplier of boutique and niche wines.

New suppliers include Piedmontese producers Cascina Val del Prete of Priocca and La Bioca of Serralunga d’Alba, Feudo Disisa, Grisi and Tenuta Rasocolmo from Sicily, and Vitivinicola Schola Sarmenti, Nardó from Puglia.

The Italian wines are supplemented by six new wines from Argentina, ten from Chile and six from Uruguayan producer Bouza from Montevideo, marking “a step into the unknown” of South America, it said.

Sales director Peter Mitchel MW said the wholesaler was moving away from an ad hoc buying strategy to concentrate on building the range in a more determined and deliberate way, admitting that despite having “some great wines”, the wholesaler had lost direction in the last few years.

The arrival of new md Hugh Sturges from Berry Bros & Rudd last March had helped reinvigorate the business and determine its new direction, he said, with the result that there was now a “collection thought” of taking the business forward.

“There had been a slow drift, but over the last twelve months there has been a concerted effort to know exactly what we want to sell and who we want to sell it to,” he told db.

As the new range starts to “bed-in” for the next 6-9 months, Mitchel said the plan was to ramp up in-store tastings across its estate and build its presence, before further developing the range again to number around 500-600 wines.

“There is room for scope – and also the budget – to add another 80 wines,” he said. “But we will continue to stock wines that our customers demand, like Cloudy Bay,”

Jeroboam md Hugh Sturges is spearheading the company’s five-year strategy for growth

Areas for future development include Spain, Hungary, Western Australia, including Victoria and Tasmania, and potentially South Africa, Mitchel said, although he admitted the latter was a “hard sell” in the London on-trade. The country still tended to suffer from a poor reputation, with few ‘icon’ brands that could provide a halo effect the country could “rest its quality” on, despite producing some great wines.

“We are not ignoring France, but we already have a strong list and there is less obvious work to be done,” he noted.

The team is also boosting its focus on training, which he said was particularly important for the “complex” Italian category.

“Italy is a complex subject and it is about trying to educate [our customers’] staff and taken them on a journey – they need to be prepared to go off-piste. There is more demand for Italian wine, but we need to lead people away from the few that they know. So we’re training them to know the difference between different crus in Barolo and what is new in Puglia.”

Around 85% of the company’s business lies in the UK on-trade, with 15% coming from independent wine retailers dotted around the country, which the business is keen to expand in a manageable way over the next five years.

The new range follows the launch of a new five-year plan by parent company and retail arm Jeroboams, on the back of significant investment. It plans to o boost the retail business with the intention of reaching a dozen stores.

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