Younger drinkers pay off for Virgin Wines

17 February, 2017

Virgin Wines capped a strong 2016 by enjoying its best ever Christmas trading period and partly attributes its success to winning over younger adults.

The business grew sales by 15.4% in the nine weeks to December 30, 2016, shipping 40,000 cases more than in the previous year.

Chief executive Jay Wright told OLN: “I certainly don’t see any apathy from the millennials in wine. It’s the fastest growing part of our business. Our tastings are full of that age group.

“It’s how you market yourselves, how relevant your brand is to that age group. A lot of people think the wine trade is old fashioned, stuck in its ways, snobby and out of touch. We are not like that and we can capitalise.”

Six months ago Virgin Wines scrapped its £7.99 delivery charge on all orders from its Wine Bank customers, who pay in a certain amount each month and earn £1 interest for every £5 they bank, before buying wines from the retailer’s extensive range.

That move has seen it increase its Wine Bank customer base from 60,000 to 75,000 in six months. “We are happy with that, as we expect around 15,000 net per year,” said Wright.

The retailer was honoured for its pioneering work in the digital field when it was given the Online Retailer of the Year gong at the Drinks Retailing Awards.

To drive further growth, Virgin has brought in a new chief marketing officer, Chris Lawson, who spent the previous three-and-a-half years working for Inspired Gaming.

Gambling is arguably the UK’s leading industry when it comes to embracing the digital revolution, and Lawson’s former chief executive at Inspired Gaming describes him as “an extremely insightful leader and thinker in the areas of customer insight, data mining and digital direct marketing”.

Wright said: “He has bags of experience with digital and social marketing and lots of interesting ideas. The gaming business is always at the cutting edge and there is an opportunity to bring relevant technology and innovation into your own business.”

Lawson’s remit includes “ruthlessly optimising every communication through an obsessive focus on testing, refining and then scaling winning creative/offers” and “developing the digital marketing and e-commerce operation further, in line with best of breed e-commerce businesses and market intelligence”.

Wright believes the business can continue to thrive going forwards, despite the various challenges the wine trade faces.

He said: “We have always got a list of more things we want to do, other areas we are looking at expanding, and we think we can grow the business.

“Our gift business has grown at a phenomenal rate and we are excited about what we can do with that. The corporate side of the business had over 1 million sales alone in December.

“If you can drive top line and bottom line growth it’s great. It’s not always easy to get significant growth in both, but we did that over Christmas in tandem with recruiting lots of new customers.” 




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