|Catherine Monahan, Clink! Wines comment|
|Written by Richard Siddle|
|Friday, 27 November 2009 14:14|
As the trade collectively winces from the losses, we cannot help but ask: What will the state of the off-licence business be over time? What impact will Thresher's demise have on the industry? Paradoxically, in the fullness of time, could this disaster be a good thing for the industry?
If there is one complaint about the consolidation of alcohol beverage retailing in the UK, it would be that by necessity it discourages selection, variety and risk taking on the part of the retailers. Everything is scaled up and 'small' doesn't quite fit in the game anymore.
Threshers has been an example of this - as the business had struggled, they gravitated towards those suppliers who could pay higher or any ‘listing fees', offer better margins, and support their business financially. Many observers commented that everything about the operation was made to be neutral, generic. The concept of variety, uniqueness and selection was an ideal left behind long ago.
One can look at the debacle and opine that the business model of the 'off license' is something of the past, gone with the local greengrocer or fishmonger. But the fact is, that for hundreds of thousands of consumers, Threshers was their wine destination, hundreds of millions of pounds worth of wine was sold annually, and certainly there is an unfulfilled need that must now be met. Sure, Sainsbury's Local, Tesco Metro and The Co-Op will pick up a lot of the business - certainly not all.
But what if, 100 wine loving entrepreneurs were to open shops around the UK. What if those shops focused on delighting consumers with special things, hard to find wines - the sorts of wines that the grocers just cannot carry? Would it be possible that what emerged from the ashes of Threshers was a new group of retailers that helped inspire consumers to play, engage, learn and experiment with wine?
While we are all looking at the big black cloud that is Threshers, why not dream of the silver lining: The possibility that new independent retailers might emerge who serve a whole new group of consumers who are under served by grocery, who want face-to-face service - waited on by a knowledgeable wine person. Why can't there be 100 new retailers who do 1 million a year in business?
These stores could buy small parcels of truly hand-crafted wines, from small suppliers that cannot service the major retailer. They could encourage new diversity and interest in the UK market, and add richness to the UK wine scene. It is not impossible, the emergence of a rich new retail scene is a possibility, and could benefit the existing trade enormously.
Pardon me for daydreaming, but from this disaster could come something great.
Catherine Monahan is managing director, Clink! Wines