The Conviviality Retail-owned off-licence chain brought in Susan McCraith, a former Waitrose MW, to add gravitas to the range in September 2013 and sales have benefited.
She has overseen a transformation that has added exclusive wines to the retailer’s arsenal, beefed up premium tiers and seen stores merchandised by taste profiles rather than countries.
Hunter told OLN: “We are really pleased with the performance of wine. Our target has been to improve the quality and credibility of our wine.
Wine now makes up 14.8% of sales. When I joined the business two years ago it was 12%. It’s a significant shift in wine sales. It helps customers see us as more of a destination off-licence. Shoppers can get quality bottles of wine at great prices.
“We actually sell more Trivento Argentinian Malbec than Tesco and that’s £8.99. We offer great value at a number of price points.
“The premium tiers are a best-kept secret for us. I don’t think people realise the breadth of the range we have on offer.”
Conviviality Retail today announced that pre-tax profits grew 47% to £3.2 million during the six months to October 26, 2014.
The group, which also trades under the Wine Rack, Thorougoods and BB’s Warehouse fascias, followed it up with a strong Christmas performance.
It reported that sales grew 2.6% in the fortnight to January 4, 2015, compared to the previous year.
Like-for-like franchise retail sales were up 1.2% during the two-week period.
Hunter said: “I am postitive about the year ahead. The market is positive about convenience shopping and specialist, differentiated retailers.
“Franchisees will recognise they had a profitable Christmas and will have felt the benefit in cash margins.
“The business is turning a corner – we have stabilised sales and we have a better quality business to mature with and grow.”