Virgin's boss unveils growth plan

22 November, 2013

Virgin Wines chief executive Jay Wright has laid out ambitious plans to grow turnover after leading a £15.9 million management buyout.

Wright, finance director Graeme Weir and marketing director Paul Adams now have a 35% stake in the business – and the rest is divided between private equity firms Mobeus and Connection Capital, who jointly financed the buyout.

Wright told OLN: “We have a business plan that gets to £50 million in the next five years, and we want to drive it beyond that.

“We have grown from £18 million in 2008 to £35 million now. There’s no reason we can’t keep that going by recruiting new customers.

“You just give customers a good reason to buy from you. We recruit over 100,000 new customers a year.

“We have done that over the last two years. We are optimistic about the future growth.”

Wright sold his Warehouse Wines business to Direct Wines in 2002, joining the firm that also owns Laithwaite’s and Averys.

When Direct Wines bought Virgin Wines from Richard Branson in 2005, it was merged with Warehouse Wines and Wright became chief executive.

He said it “has almost come full circle” now that it is independent again.

Wright believes growth can be accelerated by targeting whatever wine offers the best potential for return without having to worry about treading on the toes of other companies in the Direct Wines stable.

“We had to think about the group – we wouldn’t have done fine wine historically because Averys was doing that,” he said.

“Now we have the opportunity to do anything we want – where we think growth opportunities are and where we can get the best investment.”

Online is the fastest-growing channel for wine retailing, but Wright said he is not concerned by supermarkets investing millions in their e-commerce sites as they try to cash in. He feels Virgin is already “way ahead of the game”.

Wright said: “People who want wine delivered to their door will go to a specialist. Supermarkets have tried to break into online and it has never really worked.”

He added: “Supermarkets have stagnated. They are selling largely big brands on half-price pallet-end deals. People want to get away from them and explore this wonderful world of wine.

“We are working to sell boutique wines from independent winemakers and as time goes on more customers will want those sort of wines.”

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