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Laithwaites goes upmarket with new Vinopolis store

Laithwaites has opened its flagship store at Vinopolis in London with the avowed aim of taking a stake in the fine wine sector.

The retailer – which owns 10 other shops in the southeast of England but the brunt of whose business is mail order – took over the space occupied by Majestic at Vinopolis (pictured) at the end of last year.

Laithwaites chief executive Simon McMurtrie made clear his company’s place is at the high end of wine retailing.

‘Our competition is the Wine Society, Majestic or parts of the Waitrose range as opposed to Tesco, Sainsburys or Morrisons,’ he told decanter.com.

‘If someone just wants to buy a bottle of wine for £3-4 from Tesco or one of the other supermarkets, they are not going to be great customers for Laithwaites. But if they are prepared to pay up to £10, or even £20, and are interested to discover who has made it and why, then we are the best place in town.’

Laithwaites has taken on Justin Howard-Sneyd, formerly Waitrose wine chief, as its global wine director – even clearer evidence that their offering is going up-market.

Clare Tooley, Laithwaites’ Bordeaux-based wine buyer, told decanter.com that although the ‘core business is catalogue but we want to make the Laithwaites brand prominent.’

Laithwaites, famously shy of the media after critical drubbings, has already the notice of the press. Tim Atkin MW said in October last year that the Wine Society still ‘had the edge’ on fine wines but the gap had ‘narrowed’.

Its range consists of some 3000 wines, with around 2000 in the Vinopolis store.

Over a quarter of the offering – 28% – is French, the lion’s share being Bordeaux.

McMurtrie told decanter.com the Australian fine wine range would expand this year to include ‘a top Tasmanian Pinot Noir, two Tahbilk reds, The Armagh from Jim Barry, Parker First Growth from Coonawarra and many other top names.’

The company operates as a negociant in Bordeaux, makes wine on its estate in Cotes de Castillon, and operates a small-scale winery in McLaren Vale, South Australia.

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Written by Adam Lechmere

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