DB awards 2017: profiling the winners

Retail Buying Team of the Year


Waitrose’s buying team consistently displays an impressive level of product knowledge and professionalism, which has not only earned it a great deal of respect within the trade, but also helped it scoop the buying team of the year award for a second year in a row.

The judged noted that in 2016, the well-respected team had added a highly successful consumer wine event to its repertoire, the Waitrose Drinks Festival, which was attended by more than 2,000 consumers. This culmination of six months’ work saw the buying teams not only active in planning and implementing the festival, but also provide ‘tours’ of their respective categories on the day, explaining the wines that they buy directly to the 200 customers who took part.

Other notable successes this year include the launch of a specially selected range of classic parcel wines on a ‘when it’s gone, it’s gone’ (WIGIG) basis for Christmas, priced at £10, causing many to sell out within two weeks, and the wine and spirit showcases, which are tailored by the buying team.

The retailer believe its offer is the broadest on the high street, with a good range in all of its shops and honest pricing and value – but the backbone of its success undoubtedly lies with its retail buying team.

Independent Retailer of the Year

South Downs Cellars

South Downs Cellars scooped the independent retailer of the year award, with the judges praising the “friendly”, “efficient and successful business” that really is part of its local community. They also noted the plethora of tastings and “real energy” in its approach, which helps give the retailer “masses of personality” as well as good sales results.

All these activities led it to celebrate a 16% increase in sales over the last year across its retail, wholesale and online operations. One highlight was its coordinated Wines of California month, on the back of a major refresh of its Californian portfolio, which saw Californian wines sales increase by 1,083% in volume and 1,436% in value on the previous year.

This year has seen it focus on the depth, value and quality of its range, adding wines from the Languedoc and England in addition to California, as well as increasing the number of craft beers to around 250, and expanding its boutique gin range by nearly 40%.

“We never stop looking around, listening to our customers and trying out new ideas to excite our team and the community around us,” the team says – and it seems to be bearing fruit.

Borough Wines & Beers
Master of Malt
Real Ale
The Whisky Exchange

Online Retailer of the Year

The Whisky Exchange

In a particularly strong category, it was the impressive year-on-year growth that helped The Whisky Exchange beat off tough competition from The Master of Malt to take this year’s title.

The judges were impressed by its online sales rising 25% during 2016, and although whisky remains a key driver, gin also saw exceptional growth, growing 30% year-on-year.

The Whisky Exchange has built an enviable reputation as a leading online retailer of over 10,000 whiskies and rare spirits since it was founded in 1999, but it refuses to rest on its laurels, instead building excitement and innovation into the range with products that boast genuine heritage and exceptional quality. Buyer Dawn Davies MW has been instrumental carefully curating the range and adding around 100 new suppliers over the last year, including some ‘risky’, out of the ordinary picks. And by maximising opportunities to widen its global reach with products that appeal to US consumers, who form its second biggest market, it isn’t just appealing to the domestic market.

A good online retailer also needs a great shop-front, and theWhiskyExchange.com has boosted editorial content on its site, embracing informative feature pages for each category, and driving its social media engagement, as well as going fully responsive, and improving its payment systems to help it fulfill the demands of its customers.

Master of Malt
Virgin Wines Online

Fine Wine Retailer of the Year

Ginsberg+Chan Wine Merchants Asia

Founded in 2008 by Jason Ginsberg and Mandy Chan, this eponymous Hong Kong fine wine merchant set out right from the start to present buyers not just with a diverse portfolio but also transparent pricing and an approachable and reliable level of service.

Offering clients everything from old and hard-to-find vintages to fortnightly ‘Wine Wednesday’ tastings at its offices (spanning Rioja, first growths, Super Tuscans Barolo, Burgundy and the La Las), the stated goal is to “delight” clients and cater to the varied and changing needs of the evolving and maturing Hong Kong market.

Run and operated as an “old-fashioned”, service-driven fine wine business where customers feel they know their wine merchant, the company has also worked hard to be technologically up-to-date; overhauling its computer systems in the past year, maintaining a cloud-based inventory system liked to the e-commerce store and with everything itemised to the bottle – with photographs.

The judges liked the ‘human approach’ and ‘entrepreneurial spirit’ employed by Ginsberg+Chan – and the overall fact that this merchant is working to develop a new wine market with a passionate team.

BI Wines & Spirits
Personality awards

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