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Majestic happy with trial of smaller store, as more planned

UK specialist retail Majestic Wine aims to stick to openings larger format stores wherever possible, its COO Rob Cooke has told the drinks business, as it opens two stores in one week – although it will roll out further smaller store town centre formats where that isn’t possible. 

The retailer opened it first mini town-centre format in August, an 1,800 sq ft store in the centre of Harpenden, which is less than half the size of the average Majestic wine shop, and a second small-format store is planned for Crouch End next month.

The trial offered it “an exciting opportunity to serve our customers in new ways and cater for a number of different shopping missions,” CEO John Colley said at the time, noting that “the lessons we learn in Harpenden will be invaluable as we look to further grow our store estate.”

Speaking to the drinks business at a recent tasting, chief operating officer Rob Cooke told db that the team were happy and very comfortable with the performance of Harpenden, even though it was still “pretty early days”.

“The people of Harpenden have responded very well to it,” he said.

However he added that the “ideal” was still to find sites that could accommodate a more traditional larger format.

“We’ll put a traditional Majestic down but where we can’t find those sites – and there are areas that we really feel that we really need to be on – Harpenden certainly hasn’t dissuaded us from putting those [smaller format] stores down,” he said. “But our preference is still to stick with the tried and tested model wherever we can.”

The retailer confirmed its commitment to bricks and mortar “service-led” retail under its new owner, US firm Fortress Investment Group LLC.

Two new stores open this week

This week it opened two new stores – the first time in 10 years that it has opened two new stores in one week. This comprised a new store in Chippenham – marking its return to the town after an absence of four years – as well as its second largest store in the entire estate, in Monmouth, south Wales.

At 6,275 sq, the Monmouth store is the second-biggest store in its entire estate, second only to the St John’s Wood flagship in London, and it will sits that alongside retailers including Waitrose, M&S Food and Cook on the popular Monnow Street.

Meanwhile the Chippenham store is a new 4,775 sq ft store at the Old Foundry, on Foundry Lane, close to Waitrose and five-minutes from Chippenham train station.

In addition to supplying off-trade customers, the stores will supply wines to dozens of pubs, bars and restaurants across Wiltshire and the south of Wales through Majestic Commercial, it said.

Majestic CEO John Colley said that the opening of two stores in a week for the first time in 10 years underlined the retailers ongoing commitment to physical, experiential retail, and “offers a clear sign of how far we have progressed as a business under the ownership of Fortress”.

“We always talk about our store colleagues as our secret sauce at Majestic – and opening more stores that provide more customers across the UK with access to our highly qualified experts and unique, quality wines is a strategy that is working,” he said. “We are proud to be accelerating that pipeline of new store openings ahead of Christmas and are excited about becoming a part of even more communities across the UK in the coming months.”

Majestic opened five new shops in 2022/23, in Haywards Heath, Godalming, Stafford, and Preston, and this financial year has seen further stores in  Harpenden and Rugby in August, and Newark in September. It intends to continue the ambitious plan to grow its store portfolio at a rate of one new store per month with the smaller format in London’s Crouch End in November, it said.

This commitment to bricks and mortar reverses the policy of Majestic’s previous owner Naked Wines, who in 2019 revealed plans to rebrand the retail business as Naked Wines to concentrate purely on its online offer, intending to cut the store estate by almost two thirds and earmarking 140 stores for closure and trialling one of the stores as a rebranded  Naked Wines store.

Read more:

Majestic ‘very confident’ of its growth plan despite tough trading environment

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