Retailer launches 'super-group' as voice for independents

A Colchester-based wine merchant has set up a body that he hopes will bring together independent retailers around the country and give them a united voice.

Anthony Borges, of the Wine Centre, has created Specialist Drinks Retailers, which aims to become a “super-group of drinks retailers across the British Isles”.

The body will have a list of drinks exclusively sold by its members, a website dedicated to the sector, and contact details and links to its members’ websites.

Specialist Drinks Retailers is not limited to high-end wine merchants, but wants to be open to any independent retailer selling alcohol, from high street off-licences to farm shop delis and convenience stores.

It aims to get its members profit margins of around 33%-38%, and to encourage them  to avoid undercutting each other.

Borges said: “Something needs to be done for independents generally because they are getting a hard deal in the market at the moment. 

“It is not that people aren’t supporting them, but by their very nature of being fragmented they are relatively weak.

“I’m trying to put together something so they can have their independence but equally together they can be strong.”

He is looking for at least 100 members to make the initiative worthwhile, and is asking each to pay £300 a year to cover marketing and administration costs.

Hal Wilson, managing director of independent retailer Cambridge Wine Merchants, told OLN: “It sounds like a great idea and one that I would be interested in. I think we need a voice and marketing and a co-ordinated way of communicating our strengths and values to the consumer press particularly. 

“We need to do as much as possible to let ordinary consumers know that independents are staffed and run by people who are experts and passionate and are there to give them advice they are not likely to get from a big supermarket.”

Patrick McGrath MW, managing director of Hatch Mansfield, an agency which particularly targets independents, said the body could be a really useful point of contact for suppliers.

“It sounds great,” he said. “The more independents who don’t compete geographically work together, the better. They can help each other, learn from each other and share ideas.”

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