London merchant Berry Brothers and Rudd has closed all its pioneering Heathrow airport outlets.
The operation at the world’s busiest airport was a brilliant experiment that just didn’t work out, BBR retail director Robin McMillan told decanter.com.
‘We like to think we are innovative, and opening at Heathrow was a new concept. But it just wasn’t effective enough. The economics didn’t add up.’
Retail space at Heathrow is some of the most expensive and competitive in the world. Berrys opened their first branch in the giant airport’s Terminal 3 in 1994, followed by Terminal 4 in 97 and Terminals 1 and 2 last August.
They also introduced the idea of pre-ordering: UK-based and overseas travellers could order wine via the Berrys website, and have the wine waiting for them, duty-free, as they came through the airport.
But, McMillan said, they could not compete with the big-name luxury brands that throng the lounges. The first outlet had 1300 square feet, but all the outlets were reduced to 250sq ft when the Terminal 1 and 2 shop opened.
‘We simply needed more space,’ McMillan said. ‘We were fighting for recognition.’
That, and the ‘relatively low margins applicable to fine wines’ made it ‘impossible for us to compete’.
Disappointed as they are to lose Heathrow, Berrys have not lost their urge to push the boundaries of wine retail.
Another initiative that is bearing fruit is the Basingstoke ‘factory’ shop, which sells off surplus stock. Customers prepared to make the journey to the Hampshire outlet can find wines like Chateau Angelus 1999 or Nuits St Georges Cathiard 2001 at 25% discount.
‘We opened it earlier this year,’ McMillan said. ‘We’ve been in Basingstoke for 25 years and that was our busiest weekend ever.’
Written by Adam Lechmere