Friarwood has been trading from its Parsons Green shop since 1967. It started out as 100% wholesale and until 2000 specialised in Bordeaux wines. Ben Carfagnini, the company’s owner since 2015, wanted to place a greater focus on the retail side, and as part of this the team opened a second store in Wimbledon Village last October. Head buyer Auriane d’Aramon tells DRN more about the company’s change of direction.
What was the first step in expanding the retail side?
We had a very big French wine portfolio and we decided to expand that with “wines worth discovering”, and so we really increased our portfolio. Our Bordeaux range was big but we had 20 of each wine in some cases, and then six pallets of each in our stores. We decided that, realistically, we just couldn’t do that any more, so we kept wine from the same wineries but scaled it back, and then we were able to increase our portfolio overall.
We are proud to have 50 years of history in French wine, so although we now have a start-up mentality as if we are a new company, we also have that unique perspective of having 50 years of heritage.
What additions did you make?
We wanted to keep our Bordeaux and Burgundy roots but at the same time we increased the business, so we really expanded Italy last year and this year we will focus on Spain and English sparkling wines.
Within Italy we wanted to rework our Barolo wines and found some really interesting 100% Syrah from Tuscany.
We added Exton Park from England recently, and we are the exclusive London retailer for its wines, but we want to add to the English sparkling portfolio.
We added more wines from Burgundy and Italy then extended out of Old World wines with things such as Canadian sparkling wines and a collection from Australia.
In our Wimbledon store there is a higher demand for South African and New Zealand wines, because
of the community of people from those countries living there, so we have amended the range there to suit that
We look to import more of the wines ourselves. We are still 70% wholesale and the volume that brings allows us to secure producers so we are able to have the same range in both shops.
Who is your main competitor?
In Parson’s Green we have an Oddbins and a Waitrose nearby but it is quite diversified here. We have added an online facility which offers same-day delivery for our trade customers and next day for ecommerce.
Our wines range in price from £9 to £1,000 but the average basket spend is around £80.
How do you keep customers coming back?
We have tasting events but we think many tastings can be a bit pretentious, so we were conscious not to make ours like that. We like wine being fun and it’s all about sharing.
We do tastings every month and we often pair those with a food, so we’ve done events with chocolate, sushi, ice cream and even insects.
What’s next for the business?
We still have lots to do in Wimbledon on the retail side and we want to keep our wholesale business.
We definitely want to open more stores. We had our original store for many years and it is established here, so when we chose Wimbledon for our second store we saw it as a sort of test bed for us. That is the way we wanted to look at it.
We did a lot of research before we chose that location. It’s not just about price points or the age of customers in an area, it’s more about interest in general and lifestyle choices. We are looking at areas with that kind of mentality.
We were lucky with Wimbledon in that we were able to open just before Christmas, which was successful.
We are also lucky that we have a huge store area in our original store and we have 15,000 bottles in our cellar.