Independent wine merchant eyes expansion as Birmingham booms

07 April, 2015

Birmingham independent Loki is aiming to open a new shop in the West Midlands in the coming weeks and a third store in early 2016.

Phil Innes, who set up the store in Birmingham’s bustling business district almost three years ago, said turnover has doubled each year.

He sees economic conditions improving in the region as major banks relocate to the second city and he feels the time is right to expand.

Innes told OLN: “We are very close [to acquiring a second store]. We have been negotiating for three months and we are nearly there.

“We want to open one new store soon and another at the start of 2016, depending on how the second store does.

“We want each store to be unique. I don’t see the point in completely copying the same format. I always like to try to innovate. Expansion will be in the West Midlands. We are comfortable here and want to centralise logistics and work more efficiently.”

HSBC is transferring its retail operation from London to Birmingham and sending 1,000 well-paid staff up the M40, while Deutsche Bank has also moved one of its trading halls to Birmingham.

“Birmingham is buzzing at the moment,” said Innes. “Being in the business district helps. We are surrounded by big firms and I feel very confident for the coming year, and the years ahead.

“We have doubled turnover each year and it just feels like the time is right to expand. There is a lot of confidence at the moment.”

Innes narrowly lost out to London megastore Hedonism in the independent wine merchant category at the Drinks Retailing Awards, but admits the glitzy store – set up by Russian millionaire Yevgeny Chichvarkin – is the best in the world.

Loki has built its reputation on blending a stylish wine bar with a retail operation full of interesting bottles, with an upstairs tasting room that overlooks Birmingham’s Great Western Arcade.

Innes said gin is a star performer in its spirits section, while Spain and South Africa are surging in wine.

“There has been a bit of a resurgence in Spain this year, but the classics are still selling well,” he said. “South Africa continues to offer good value at every price point.”

The independent wine merchant scene is thriving and news of Loki’s planned expansion follows OLN’s revelation in the last issue that Cheshire chain Corks Out is planning to open a sixth store.

Founder Ruth Yates is also putting faith in combining a retail outlet and wine bar concept.

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