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From mobility shop to wine specialists Debbie Watts and her husband Michael are old hands when it comes to keeping shop in Lee-on-Solent, Hampshire. Their mobility business has been on

the high street for the past 10 years, but recently they’ve been looking for a new

challenge and decided a wine merchant would definitely have a fan base.

Knowing the “pattern” of their own high

street, the couple felt confident to start a

new business in the old HSBC building and it was when chatting to their friend, Janine Pert of Discover Wine in Denmead, that

they concluded a similar business could work in Lee.

“The response has been amazing,” says

Debbie, recalling the opening. “It wasn’t just people coming in to get a free glass

of Champagne – they were spending big money.

“It’s been steady every day since. People

just pop in to see the new business on the block. The feedback has been so positive

The Wine Bank in Lee-on-Solent is in a former HSBC branch

Online’s the priority Wirral merchant for Oswestry indie moves uptown Neil Jenkins, owner of Twelve Green

Whitmore & White’s original store in

Bottles in Oswestry, has taken his

Pensby Road, Heswall is relocating to

business in a new direction.

a more premier high street location

The company is now focused on

complete with customer parking.

Jenkins continues to run his wholesale

the range. “It’s going to be stacked a little

from the locals.”

e-commerce, with the shop no longer

has helped to shape their wine list, with

and online business from the town centre

Their knowledge of the local community

and its high street “full of empty shops” a keen eye on price points. Wines are

starting at around £7 and stopping at around £30.

Debbie says: “Even our Champagnes

we kept to the low end of the scale at

just below £30. We’re using Hallgarten,

Negociants, Fells, Connoisseur … Janine

has been really good and she has slowly been introducing me to suppliers.”

The company has also sourced an

interesting range of local gins and ales

opening regular hours.

owner Joe Whittick won’t be reducing

premises. Retail customers can still buy

going in there,” he says.

wine from the store, either by ringing the bell or calling ahead.

“We had a cracking January; we did a lot

more online than we would ordinarily have done in the shop,” says Jenkins.

All the branding and signage remains

and a vinyl sign on the window conceals

the more warehouse-styled storage within. • Paul Rollings has moved to Mallorca,

including some lines from the recently

meaning that the Rollings Wine Company

training courses for Debbie and Michael as

wine bar but have not bought the Rollings

established Portsmouth Gin Company.

shop in Harpenden has closed after 11

well as their part-time members of staff.

business.

Pert’s assistance will also extend to some

Although the new premises is smaller,

years. The new leaseholders are opening a

THE WINE MERCHANT MARCH 2018 4

higher and a little tighter, but it will all be “Our biggest problem is the parking

and the footfall. We’re just trying to make ourselves a bit more accessible.

“There’s a little bit of [off-road] parking

there, and on-street parking; it just means people can pop in and grab something. I

think these days that if things aren’t easy for people they’re not really prepared to necessarily go out of their way.”

The price to pay for a higher footfall

sometimes means jostling with bigger high street names, and while Whittick admits

that relocating next door to an M&S food

hall might be “counter-intuitive” he asserts

“their customers are our customers, really”.

The Wine Merchant issue 67  

The Wine Merchant issue 67

The Wine Merchant issue 67  

The Wine Merchant issue 67

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