Retailer Profile – Fine Wines Direct UK – Drinks Retailing News

Fine Wines Direct UK, based in Cardiff, is an importer with a bonded warehouse and a thriving retail operation. Manager Greg Williams tells Drinks Retailing how the store – both physical and online – is changing

We purchased the building in 2008 and launched the commercial side at the end of 2009. We have expanded over the past 12-18 months into the building next door. We have an excellent reputation in Wales, and we have always felt that there was a lack of a serious wine merchant where you could buy the whole range – from entry-level to Cru Classé.

Approximately 5-10% of our business is door-to-door retail. There’s about another 5% online, so retail is about 10-15% of our business. We rebuilt our e-commerce website during Covid as the old system was becoming obsolete. We built it with a wine club attached and really improved the look and functionality. It turned out to be a real asset. For the whole business, our annual turnover is £12m excluding VAT, so retail accounts for 10-15% of that.

We have vendor profiles on the e-commerce site and this helps drive sales. Online we offer a 10% discount on 12 bottles mixed, not including postage and packing, which means the average spend isn’t quite the same as in store. Someone could walk into the store and buy 10 crates, for example.

We have event space and we work with local chefs. We seek to supply the best restaurants in the South West, which is why we have worked with chefs such as Bryn Williams and Stephen Terry who create small dishes to accompany at events. We are fully licensed and our space is events, but we are working on a front terrace to develop our hybrid operation. We also have a WSET school. We try to develop knowledge around wine – it has been quite an important mission for us.

We have a strong local customer base in Cardiff. We make local deliveries in our own fleet of vehicles, which we also use for the catering side. Our online customer base is national and we expect the retail business to grow, especially as we are able to keep stock here through our import and bonding business. We have the volumes and the range.

We have been harvesting en primeur for about 30 years. We exchange a little, we buy a little, we drink a little. We have invested around £200.00 in the latest vintage – mainly Bordeaux. We tend to break up a crate and offer it to customers and when it’s done we offer something else. At the moment we have Haut-Brion 2001, Margaux 2002. Vintage port is also important. We have a huge selection, some dating back to the 1960s. We tend to sell a lot of these wines to private clients as well as businesses. But we also have our fine wines at £5 a bottle.

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