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Oddbins job cuts don’t worry the independents

David McCourt on wine retailers’ battle against the supermarkets

Published on March 10th 2011.

Oddbins job cuts don’t worry the independents

AT TIMES when it seems like nobody can escape the ‘big pinch’ and when big-name retailers are struggling to cope with the recession, it would take a brave entrepreneur to take on the supermarkets and their domination of the wine market.

“One of Britain’s last remaining off-licence chains, Oddbins, is reportedly set to close almost a third of its stores triggering the loss of two hundred jobs.”

One of Britain’s last remaining off-licence chains, Oddbins, is reportedly set to close almost a third of its stores triggering the loss of two hundred jobs. This follows the fold of Unwins in 2005 and the collapse of Threshers in 2009.

But one independent retailer in West Didsbury believes there is nothing to fear.

Kate Goodman, who runs the independent wine merchant Reserve Wines, feels her store has a certain edge over the supermarkets. She said “We do something different than the supermarkets. We offer a different selection and a different service altogether.”

She continued, “Our customers can come in and experience wine and speak with experts. We make sure that all our staff are properly trained and we are careful to maintain the kind of customer service that is not available at the supermarket.”

Winewire.co.uk reported in August that ‘85% of all retail wine in the UK is sold through the supermarkets’ – a statistic that highlights the size of market share that independent retailers have left to hang onto.

In spite of this, Goodman maintains an unfazed confidence. “We set this up seven years ago and came into a market that was already dominated by the supermarkets. But we’ve found that we haven’t really suffered from the recession, and have actually seen growth in the last two years.”

So what then, is the key to success in this David vs Goliath battle?

Goodman believes that a high standard of customer service is important and events such as wine tastings offer customer’s something different. “I think that since the recession people are becoming much more conscious about where they actually spend their money, and would perhaps rather spend carefully on a wine they know is to their taste or of a certain quality, than buy one from a supermarket.”

However, others make distinctions between the supermarkets and independent retailers all together.

Mike, from Carringtons in Chorlton, believes suppliers are the difference. “It’s different for us as we sell niche market products. The suppliers we use couldn’t supply supermarkets. They just don’t have the capacity to put their product on supermarket shelves.”

He added “Supermarkets are for big brands and corporate entities, but it’s a shame for Oddbins and it’s probably bad for the wine trade in general.”

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Adam RichmondMarch 9th 2011.

EDITORIALLY REMOVED. Now now, let's not be rude.

RayMarch 16th 2011.

David McC - hang your head in shame, sir. "Customer's"? What's all that about? Shocking display of grammar.

Turning to the article, I have no doubt that places like Reserve, Ditch, Portland Wine etc will succeed. They do so because the product is far better than the usual supermarket rubbish (and frequently better value), the buying experience is better, and there is a strong group of buyers who have an interest in seeking out interesting flavours. Long may they all continue.

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