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Indie merchant House of Townend boosts online investment

Independent retailer and wholesaler House of Townend is looking to boost its private client and retail sales, after relaunching its online wine site.



The Hull-based company, which revamped its logo and branding earlier this year, has invested around £50,000 on the new site, which has been designed to unify the wholesale and retail businesses under a more coherent umbrella brand.

It follows the appointment of a new online marketing manager in September to drive the programme and develop the digital business to better suit changing consumer habits.

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Currently, the Cellar Door shop accounts for around 8% of the retailers £13.5m annual turnover, with mail order, en primeur and private trade accounting for a further 10%, but the new site is targeting both trade and retail customers, after a positive response from wholesale customers.

“It has represented a significant investment for us, but we believe that it will take our private trade business to the next level,” managing director John Townend told db.

“The website and the Cellar Door will have a similar ethos moving forward with a focus on individual and parcel wines as well as looking at food and wine matching with wine endorsements from some of our trade customers – mainly chefs – and staff recommendations,” he added.

Previously only 300 wines were available online, with around 650 – 700 available at the Cellar Door retail shop in Melton, but the online offer has been boosted to around 1,800 lines in total, including beers, spirits and soft drinks, with no minimum order.

The wine range focuses on French wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy and The Rhone and small parcels that give breadth to the range as well a dedicated fine wine selection, but the team has added a selection of wines that are exclusive to the web.

In addition, the site is offering sixteen pre-chosen mixed cases – seven 6-bottle, and nine 12-bottle cases in addition to the Yorkshire Post Wine Club selection – highlighting different regions or styles, including a ‘New World vs Old World’ case, ‘Old Favourites’, and a selection of aromatic whites called ‘Something Different’.

The main bulk of its overall sales are driven through its wholesale business, with volume driven by key trade lines, including Chilean varietals, Pinot Grigio, Prosecco and Champagne, it said, but growth has been good at retail from older style wines such as Sancere and Muscadet, as well as Picpoul de Pinet, which consumers are increasingly willing to experiment with, Townend noted, as well as established favourites Argentinian Malbec, Rioja and “keenly priced” Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. The South African range is currently being reviewed with new additions from Swartland and Stellenbosch, as well as the Languedoc.

It also has a large portfolio of 70 gins and 100+ malt whiskies.

Changing Indie scene

Townend said recent changes across the retail market had had a positive effect on independents. “The reduction in the supermarket ranges has seen the people who have more of an active interest in wines and who want to trade up their selection seeking out independent wine merchants,” he argued.

He said that while it was “encouraging” that wine shops were increasingly diversifying into on and off-trade and making it easier for customers to taste and try out new and varied wine styles, as this became the norm rather than the exception, it was making it harder for good retailers to stand out.

“My feeling is that we will continue to see the development of merchants offering both off and on-trade with food matching being at the core of that offering,” he added.

For our top-ten run down of independent merchants, see here

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