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Published:  23 July, 2008

By David Williams

The UK wine trade, particularly its consumer and trade journalists, is frightening off foreign suppliers with its excessive and misplaced criticism of UK wine retailing, according to Western Wines MD Mike Paul. Speaking at the launch of Unwins' new retail concept, Phillips Newman (see Harpers 21 May), in a trade briefing at last week's London International Wine and Spirits Fair (LIWSF), Paul said: We are giving a distorted picture to suppliers by continually concentrating on and talking about brands, consolidation and discounting. In the wine sense, we have one of the most innovative retailing scenes in the world, and some of the most proactive buyers. We shouldn't take that for granted. If we are not careful, we will force the situation where the retailing world that the prophets of doom have described becomes a reality. The perception is very different from the reality.' Paul welcomed the Phillips Newman idea, which was launched formally by Unwins marketing director Ian McLernon at the event. McLernon's boss, Unwins chairman Michael Lunn, who was also present, told the audience that the concept's roll-out would depend on the cash-strapped specialist's ability to attract development capital'. We have a lot of ideas,' Lunn said, and we have to roll them out quickly, so we need development capital.' Lunn stressed that the company was in a healthy state, however, after a difficult period. In the past we have perhaps been too honest in talking to our suppliers about our problems,' Lunn said. We have now substantially completed the turnaround [of the business], and are in development mode. We are looking for development money and that could result in a minority stake or a complete sale.'