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.
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