Update: Strong Xmas for independent wine retailers

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Independent wine retailers put in a strong performance in December, despite fears that the gloomy economic outlook would squeeze consumer spending.


This rolling update will highlight sales across the trade, pinpointing strong performances in December.

The independents, a snapshot:

  • Cheshire’s Corks Out saw December sales up 15%, thanks to a return of corporate business.
  • Jamie Hutchinson, co-owner of the Sampler, said revenue grew 1-2% at the Islington store, while the new South Kensington store was up 40%
  • Manchester’s Hanging Ditch, said December sales were up 35% on 2010, while November grew 67% on the previous year
  • Northern Ireland's James Nicholson said December's sales were between 3-4% ahead of 2010


The details:
Jamie Hutchinson, co-owner of the two Sampler stores in London, said sales had been “better than expected”. Revenue grew 1-2% at the Islington store, and Hutchinson said “we felt quite good about it, as we had been worried”, while the new South Kensington store was up 40%.
“Retail has been difficult,” said Hutchinson, adding that people didn’t buy Bordeaux wines, as they were just “to expensive to drink”. He said Bordeaux volumes had fallen to about half what was sold in the previous year.
Instead he said Burgundy was the stellar performer, followed by the Rhone. He said customers were seeking out “more unusual areas”, which meant the team had to work harder for its sales, especially when it came to sourcing.

Ruth Yates, owner of the five-strong Corks Out chain in Cheshire
, said December sales had been up by 15%, and that the year from January to December 2011 was also up 15%. Yates said a lot of corporate business came back in December, having missed 2010. “We didn’t see any signs of recession”, she added. She said “customers weren’t spending excessively, but were sticking within their means”.

According to Yates, following the firm’s past four years of expansion it had consolidated in 2011, and “had gone from making a loss to good profit”. “We turned it around completely,” she added.

She said the website, which now operates nationally, was one of the main reasons for 2011’s succeess. “Sales online were up by 138%,” she said, adding that the website acted like the third-place store in terms of volumes sold.

“We bought in a lot of Prosecco, but people didn’t bother with it - they went straight for Champagne,” she said. Overall, her outlook for the new year is “very positive”.

Ben Stephenson of Manchester’s Hanging Ditch
, said the store had produced “great results for the last quarter, roll on 2012!”. December 2011 sales were up 35% on 2010, while November grew 67% on the previous year. October sales were up 34%, with September reaching 104% above the previous year.

James Nicholson, the owner of Northern Ireland’s James Nicholson merchants, said December was 3% to 4% ahead on 2010. “On the face of it, it looks quite good, but then we had terrible snow at this time last year. Nonetheless we were pretty pleased.” He said the online business had been very successful, growing by 25% over the year to become “almost a standalone business”.

Please email gemma.mckenna@wrbm.com to let us know how your business fared over Christmas, and we will add it to the story.

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