Drinks Retailing Awards: winners revealed

Industry legend Cliff Roberson was the toast of the Drinks Retailing Awards last night, as he scooped the Independent Wine Merchant of the Year gong and followed it up with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

The judges praised Roberson’s eponymous store on London’s Kensington High Street for its fantastic range and magical retail space.

It beat fellow finalists Oeno, Loki and The Wine Reserve to be pronounced the absolute pinnacle of wine retailing that sets the benchmark for the rest of the industry.

Roberson was back on the stage to collect the Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognised the septuagenarian’s achievements at Buckingham Schenk and London Cru, and celebrated his love of Jimi Hendrix as Purple Haze accompanied his entrance.

The other big winners on the night included Waitrose and Tesco.

Waitrose scooped Supermarket of the Year, Multiple Wine Retailer and Multiple Spirits Retailer and was praised for putting BWS at the heart of its business.

Tesco won Drinks Buying Team, Online Retailer, Multiple Beer Retailer and Multiple Cider Retailer. It won praise for its focus on innovation, heavy investment in pioneering new categories and its mission to provide shoppers with affordable treats.

The awards took place at The Dorchester hotel in London and hundreds of leading retailers, key suppliers and prominent political figures descended on Park Lane for an evening of glitz and glamour.

OLN editor Rosie Davenport, who co-hosted the event with comedian Miles Jupp, said: “The Drinks Retailing Awards are recognised as the industry’s Oscar night and this year’s event was as glamorous as ever.

“We had a record number of entries across some 20 categories and the standard was unprecedented which gave judges a real challenge. This year we stepped up our already rigorous process to ensure the right names won on the night, but in such a stand-out year, even getting as far as our shortlist was a real achievement. 

“The calibre of all the winners demonstrates just how much innovation and passion exists in the UK retail scene.”

Please see below for a full list of winners and some comments from the judges:

Innovation Oddbins – The Palate

“Oddbins broke new ground with The Palate – a competition to find the UK’s best amateur wine taster. Shoppers pitted against Oddbins experts at blind tastings held in stores, and finalists went to a wine boot camp with two MWs. The chain reported a dramatic surge in footfall and recruits to its database as a direct result of the initiative.”

Newcomer Lancaster Wine Company 

“Lancaster Wine Company is almost the complete package – a newcomer that feels like it’s been there for years. Barry and Fiona Howarth have taken years of experience from working in off-licence chains and local independents to hone their own vision of just what a specialist drinks store should be and the results are wonderful.”

Drinks Wholesaler Gordon & MacPhail 

“It’s now two wins in a row for Gordon & MacPhail, which has stood head and shoulders above the rest in recent years for its comprehensive range, passion and exemplary service.”

Convenience Drinks Store Nisa Linwood 

“Terry Feeney took a bold step when he packed in his fish and chip shop, took over the pub next door and turned it into a vast convenience store, with beer, wine and spirits at the heart of the business. The store has a strong range, an innovative walk-in fridge and plenty of impressive POS, and it is a great community asset.”

Independent Cider Retailer Green Valley Cyder Barn & Ale House 

“Devon’s Darts Farm shop boasts one of the biggest selections of bottled ciders in the world. Shoppers can also watch the owners making cider through a window in the shop’s cider fixture at the on-site production plant. This is a fantastic destination for cider lovers to immerse themselves in.”

Multiple Cider Retailer Tesco 

“Tesco has invested heavily in cider and now provides one of the broadest ranges under one roof. It tailors local ranges to drive sales in cider’s heartland, champions the category with cider festival and isn’t afraid to mix the range up with craft products and ice cider, all resulting in a great shopper experience.”

Green / Ethical Retailer The Co-Operative 

“The Co-op accounts for around 30% of all Fairtrade wine sales in the world and has projects in Argentina, Chile and South Africa, along with a  farmers’ co-operative in Malawi. It has also reduced its carbon footprint by stepping up its UK bottling operation and moving own-label spirits to smaller packs.”

Independent Beer Retailer Real Ale 

“Real Ale leaves no path unexplored in its quest to educate and excite its local community about the joys of good beer. Cask beer, tasting samples, encyclopedic staff knowledge, a selection of books, pop-up bars for outside events, tasting notes and food matches all play a part, and sales are up.”

Multiple Beer Retailer Tesco 

“Tesco has more than 400 ale lines ranged by taste profile, incorporates plenty of local brews and limited-editions into its range, pioneers emerging categories like spirit beers and uses events to create in-store theatre. Four-for-three promotions on single bottles, web exclusive deals and a focus on educating the shopper also point to a strong all-round retail package.”

Responsible Retailer Premier Mo’s Convenience Store 

“Mo’s takes a zero-tolerance stance towards underage sales, uses an OK ID fingerprint machine to check shoppers’ dates-of-birth and dishes out free educational leaflets on alcohol-related health issues. It is the very definition of a modern responsible retailer and deserves this award for its enduring vigilance.”

Independent Spirits Retailer Tasting Room 

“Shoppers at Tasting Room can get lost in this Aladdin’s cave of spirits, packed full of single malts from independent bottlers, premium gin, Japanese whisky, direct-shipped grappa, Cornish pastis and much more. Its whisky club helps build customer loyalty and its layout is excellent.”

Multiple Spirits Retailer Waitrose 

“Waitrose has cemented its position as the destination supermarket for spirits aficionados with showcase promotions for whisky, gin, rum, Cognac and cocktails. These events are inspiring and educational, and have helped the supermarket achieve strong sales in this category.”

Champagne Retailer The Sampler 

“This was an incredibly strong category, with all three finalists displaying passion and creativity in making Champagne a core part of the business. The Sampler stocks only grower-made Champagne to stand out from the crowd, uses tasting notes to great effect and has developed a 1-10 grading system that impressed, and was deemed the outstanding retailer this year.”

Independent Wine Retailer Roberson Wine 

“This was a close-fought category with four vastly different shops displaying exactly why the trade has such confidence in the independent sector’s ability to lead us out of the recession. But Cliff Roberson’s quirky store in London’s Kensington High Street, with its fantastic range, burgeoning wine club and magical retail space, was judged to be the absolute pinnacle of wine retailing that sets the benchmark for the rest of the industry.”

Multiple Wine Retailer Waitrose 

“Waitrose has more than 300 WSET-qualified specialists, promotes wine on Waitrose TV and a Christmas drinks app, uses top-notch POS to educate consumers and uses showcase promotions on different wine regions to encourage discovery, making it a fantastic shopping experience. It also promotes niche wine-producing nations as well as major ones.”

Drinks Buying Team Tesco 

“The Tesco buying team has worked hard to bring high-quality Bordeaux to the masses, expand the Finest range and develop the Simply range to offer shoppers affordable treats. It performed well in all BWS categories, bringing lesser-known countries into its whisky range, championing local cider producers and launching a strong discovery beer range.”

Independent Drinks Retailer Selfridges & Co 

“Buyer Dawn Davies has overseen the creation of a whole new drinks department for the luxury retailer’s flagship Oxford Street store over the past year.  The new space is bigger and more inviting and the wine and spirits ranges have expanded, while bottled beer has become a force in the store’s BWS line-up for the first time. This is the absolute pinnacle of drinks retailing, not just in the UK but in the world.”

Online Retailer Tesco 

“Tesco bolstered its Wine by the Case site over the past year by adding a range of new tools and overhauling its customer rating system. Its online wine community membership has passed the 20,000 mark, and live online tastings and Facebook question-and-answer sessions broaden the overall experience. Tesco has also launched an innovative co-buy scheme, allowing customers to recommend wine to friends and drive the price down.”

Multiple Specialist Chain Corks Out

“The past 12 months have seen Corks Out reinvent three stores with a classy wine bar refit, combining the best elements of the on-trade with a top-notch wine merchant. It has stayed true to its principle of convincing customers to pay a little more for much better value and has reaped the rewards.”

Supermarket Waitrose

“Beers, wines and spirits form a core part of the Waitrose business and their commitment to the drinks trade is reflected in a diverse range of mainstream and boutique products that is broad and exciting. New concept stores are pushing the boundaries of drinks retailing, and consumers are treated to an engaging, educational shopping experience.”

Lifetime Achievement Cliff Roberson, Roberson Wines