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The Wine Society to shut French ‘booze-cruise’ shop

The Wine Society is to close its Montreuil Wine Shop in France, admitting the impending Brexit vote confirmed it was the right decision.

The Wine Society's Montreuil shop
The Wine Society’s Montreuil showroom

In a letter to its members, the wine club said it was shutting the French-based showroom, which is situated 45 minutes from Calais, after “careful consideration and much regret”, citing a “substantial” rent hike at the end of its current lease, which, together with running costs, would render the operation unaffordable.

It was seen as not in the society’s interest to sign a new nine-year lease, and the decision followed an 18-month discussion over the showroom’s future, according to chief executive Robin McMillan.

Although McMillan denied the closures was a response to the Brexit referendum, he added that the uncertainties following the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU three weeks ago had proved it was the right decision.

“While there are undoubtedly members who do enjoy using the Montreuil services, this number represents an increasing minority of the overall membership,” he added. “In the meantime the business will be operating as usual and we will be sure to keep members up to date with any changes to the service.”

The proportion of members using Montreuil had fallen from a high of 5% of its active membership in 2005, when the shop opened, to the current MAT level of 2.6% of the active membership, the Wine Society confirmed.

The Montreuil-sur-Mer shop is set to close in December, but McMillan assured members the ensure the closure would proceed as smoothly as possible, and it would provide its full support to its French partner, LCV, and the team.

Last years saw media reports of a resurgence in the booze-cruise on the back of a weaker euro and the continued high duty in the UK. The phenomenon, which enjoyed a heyday twenty years ago, took a beating during the recession, and many outlets were shut.

Majestic Wine is one of the few remaining retailers with a Calais retail warehouse, but it admitted in its recent annual results that French sales and profits, which are now part of its overall Retail business, comprise a relatively small component of the Group’s total and were not expected to be a major source of future growth.

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