Q&A with Hugh Sturges – Managing Director at Jeroboams, London
“The unknown – Brexit and its potential impact on the currency, availability of high-quality staff from wine producing countries & import logistics were the biggest challenges this year”
Hugh Sturges has been in the luxury and premium wine, spirit and hospitality sector (retail and business to business) for 20 years, the last 9 as Chief Executive of Berry Bros. & Rudd, a 300-year-old family business with offices in the UK, USA, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore.
Huge is now Managing Director at Jeroboams London and a Board Member of the Wine and Spirits Trade Association representing the UK industry.
In an interview with IBWSS London, Huge talks about the Brexit and its potential impact on the currency, availability of high-quality staff from wine producing countries & import logistics were the biggest challenges this year.
Tell us something about the background to the business?
Jeroboams is a privately owned company started in 1985 with the purchase of its first retail outlet and then incorporating Laytons Wine Merchants (founded in 1934) some years later.
Why do you think your business stands out from the competition?
Jeroboams is a full service wine merchant serving private individuals through retail and private account management and serving the trade (corporate and restaurant) through its specialist wholesale division.
Our point of difference is twofold. Firstly, excluding Champagne, 90% of our products are sourced direct from producer, and largely small family-owned wineries.
Secondly we attract private customers into our business through our high-quality wine shops in local London villages.
Describe your approach to wine buying, what are you hoping to offer your customers?
Our approach to wine buying is primarily to provide customers with what they want at all price points but within that ‘obvious’ offer, we try to provide interesting wines direct from producers to put alongside the more sought after ‘brands’ from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Italy and further afield
What are the main wine countries and regions that you source your wine from?
We sell wine from all the key wine producing countries and regions and many of the lesser known regions as well. We have largely different wines for the more competitive trade market and compliment that trade offer with fine wines from classic regions. For the private customer using our shops we provide a wide range of wines with a leaning toward France and Italy (especially the wide variety from Piedmonte).
We also devote significant time and attention to promoting our agency or exclusive brands which (in addition to Italy) are mainly from the further flung regions of Australia, New Zealand and South America.
Has that changed much in the last five years?
Yes, whilst maintaining strength in France and supporting our agency brands, we have invested travel and tasting time to significantly increasing our Italian offer and growing our relationships with suppliers of key grape varieties from the Southern hemisphere (notably South America).
What are the key price points for you and why?
They differ dependent upon shop location and route to market. We need to supply customers with what they want and this varies of course from day to day drinking, where we would supply largely between £12 and £20 (but with a small selection below that), quality and value is the key to our private customer rather than price point per se. For our trade customers the price points would be considerably lower on the whole.
What do you think will be the key wine regions, countries, styles in the next 18 months?
That is an interesting one. What should happen is that the countries making great wine, but with weakening currencies, do well, we shall see. Brexit has the potential (though hopefully only the potential) to severely disrupt the wine market and along with all in the UK trade we will have to adjust as adjustment is necessary. In terms of style, rather than price or availability, I don’t see any major trend changes over an 18 month time frame. English wine will be on the up.
What are the biggest challenges facing your business?
The known – the well-documented pressures in the UK retail sector and our direct and indirect consumer.
The unknown – Brexit and its potential impact on currency, availability of high-quality staff from wine producing countries and import logistics.
The biggest opportunities for your business?
Working out how to ride the challenges better or as well as anyone else. Also developing our model of offering our high quality retail shops not only as retail but as fully fledged wine merchants in their own right providing wine broking, advice, storage and so on vis your local wine manager. Oh and providing interesting wines for customers to enjoy.