Trial Naked store returns to Majestic fold

The UK’s first Naked Wines bricks and mortar store has been converted back to a Majestic store, the UK specialist retailer announced today, as it nears the sale of the UK-based retail business.

Following the UK retailer’s shock announcement in March that it was restructuring and rebranding the business as Naked Wines to concentrate purely on its online offer, the specialist unveiled its first Naked Wine store a month later. Based in Wakefield, the rebranded shop sold a mixtures of stock from both Majestic suppliers and Naked Wines, as part of a trial to gauge customer reaction to possibly converting every Majestic store to the online retailer’s name.

At the time, a spokesman told db there are no more plans to transition any more stores, but it had not ruled out changing more stores to Naked Wines in future.

Naked Wine’s first bricks and mortar shop returns to the Majestic fold

Originally Group CEO Rowan Gormley indicated that the estate might be sold piecemeal, telling the drinks business the Majestic name was unlikely to disappear from the high street, however the management team apparently changed tack on the direction for the Majestic retail estate. Reports that the retail estate was likely to be sold in its entirety first surfaced in April, with sources close to the matter telling db that an activist investor that has snapped up shares in Majestic Wine was backing the hope that the ‘fundamentally strong’ retail and commercial business may be sold intact, having criticised the combination of asset sales and store closures announced in March as  ‘muddled’ and ‘value destructive’.

Today, Majestic MD Joshua Lincoln confirmed that the Wakefield Naked store was back “in the Majestic family” following a refit that includes more tasting areas, shelving throughout and a new events space.

“Although this was just a painted door trial, I’m incredibly pleased to bring Wakefield back into the Majestic family. We’ll be opening plenty of bottles this weekend and over the coming week to celebrate, and invite everyone to come and taste with us once again. My thanks too to the store team and our customers for bearing with us over the last few months,” he said.

In June, a buoyant Lincoln promised suppliers and consumers that the UK wine specialist was “here to stay”, even though the ‘ink wasn’t dry’ on the proposed sale of the retail business.

Currently, there are said to be three potential buyers for the retail business: alleged front-runner Japanese-owned US equity firm Fortress Investment Group;  investment firm Elliott Advisors, the UK wing of American activist hedge fund Elliot Management, who owns UK bookstore Waterstones and whose parent company has a stake in Pernod Ricard;  and OpCapita, the former owner of electronics chain Comet which also owns Italian dining chain Rossopomodoro.

In June, the retailer confirmed the ‘advanced’ sale talks were expected to close over the summer, however that if it was not possible to complete the process over the summer – before the onset of the key Christmas and New Year period – it would continue to run the two businesses independently and look to restart the process in 2020.

US retail heavyweight John Walden, executive chairman of Holland & Barrett, and former Homebase and Argos boss, was also announced as the new company chairman as Greg Hodder announced he was stepping down.

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