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Majestic doubles down on bricks and mortar with two new roles

UK specialist retailer Majestic has boosted its property team with the creation of two new roles to help it deliver its ambition to open a new store each month over the next few years. 

The first new appointment is that of Stuart Williams as director of estates and acquisitions. Williams has spend the last two years as head of estates at Travelodge, and before that was interim head of property at Game Retail, having held roles at The White Company and Sofa.com. However he started his career at Majestic, having joined as a trainee manager in 1992 and spent 24 years with the company, moving into the property department where he subsequently become property director and was involved in its store expansion. During which time Majestic acquired more than 130 Majestic shops across the UK. He left in April 2016, after Majestic’s acquisition by Naked Wines plc. In his new role, he will take on responsibility for finding new Majestic stores and managing existing lease agreements, starting in January 2024 and reporting to the Majestics CFO, Alex Jablonowski.

Majestic CEO John Colley said that as well as bringing a huge amount of retail and property experience to the role, he had “an intrinsic understanding of the Majestic business, our customers, our culture, and what we look for in a new store”.

A second new role of director of format development and new store operations has been created which will be filled by current director of property, Andy Latham, who joined the company in 2021 after holdign senior property roles with major UK retailers including Woolworths, Boots and Kingfisher. Latham’s responsibility will include planning, fitting out and setting up Majestic’s new stores ahead of opening, as well as managing investment for the refurbishment of its existing estate.
The move reiterates the retailer’s commitment to bricks and mortar to drive retail sales, which has been a key plank of its strategy since its acquisition by Fortress Investment Group in December 2019 and reversing moves made by previous owner, Naked Wines. Since then it has opened 15 new stores, it says, including five in the financial year to date, and has trialled new store concepts, including a new small-format high street store.

“Its performance to-date has given the business confidence to roll out similar smaller sites in other high-density catchments,” the retailer said.

Colley said the team had ambitious plans to open up to one new store per month and drive the growth of both its retail and commercial businesses over the next few years .

“To achieve this, we need to make sure we have the right structure and tools in place, and  creating these two new roles in our property team is an important part of that investment,” he said. He argued that both Williams and Latham would play “crucial roles in the evolution of Majestic’s store portfolio” and their appointments reaffirmed “Majestic’s ongoing commitment to physical, experiential retail.”

He noted that Williams appointment would allow Latham and his team “to place an increased focus on format development, driving our bricks-and-mortar innovation and ensuring that our new stores get up to speed as quickly as possible before being fully handed over to store colleagues and regional retail teams”.

Speaking to the drinks business in October, Majestic’s COO Rob Cooke says he remained “very confident” in the specialist retailer’s growth plans, despite the tough trading environment of the UK retail market, arguing that at a time when customers are keen to maximise the value they get from the spend, the retailers’ “ability to have those quality conversations in the ‘try before you buy’ tasting counter is going to be more important than ever.” 

However, he also told db that the “ideal” was still to find sites that could accommodate a more traditional larger format store, although it will roll out further smaller store town centre formats where that isn’t possible, based on the success of its first small format store in Harpenden.

Since opening Harpenden in April, Majestic opened a smaller-format store in London’s Crouch End in October, with another set to open in Marlow in 2024.

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