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RIP Majestic


#81

If anyone is in Bristol I’d recommend having a nose around Averys wine cellars!

They have a central caged “inner sanctum” which is probably as close to Heaven as I’ll ever get :wink:


#82

This is made by DeMorgenzon, a well rated small winery especialy known for their Chenins. https://demorgenzon.com/


#83

A good article from Victoria Moore on the whole debacle:


#84

Yup, as I commented, reverse takeover and asset strip…though the costs of the latter might be significant. I was a Majestic shareholder for a number of years - sold them about a year before the Naked takeover, as I thought it had gone ex growth by then as a business.

In defence, Majestic had lost its way before Naked stepped in, but if the answer was Naked I don’t know what the question was.


#85

That piece is by @Hernehillandy on Twitter - but Victoria Moore tweeted it yesterday (I misread her tweet too initially!). She’s written her own piece apparently which I guess will be in the Telegraph soon - some really interesting analysis coming out of this announcement but I think most will struggle to beat the one you’ve just posted!


#86

Ha, I’ve reread her tweet DOH :woman_facepalming:t3::woman_facepalming:t3:


#87

Absolutely no surprise Majestic has gone to the wall. Like many I used to buy a fair bit there, but nothing much of interest for years now. Though Pétalos 2016 was a recent exception :slight_smile:

Hard to see how the model could work, with the market so unhealthily dominated by the supermarkets and everyone scrabbling around for the 5%.
Unlike others, I find almost nothing of interest at Waitrose (mindnumbingly dull these days), and never see any of the interesting m&s wines around here.

More sadly, a lot of small independents are going to go to the wall in the next couple of years, I think, as the economy is hollowed out.


#88

My local shop is Waitrose and I’m the same, they constantly reduce the range over the years and its 90% bulk produced crap. They have Musar and Nyetimber but more expensive than the society. If they have an offer on sparkling then it can be worth a go. A shame really as it was great in the past. M&S seemed to go through a phase a few years back of having loads of interesting off the wall stuff, then got rid of it all (and let their wine guy who knew all the customers go).

Perhaps this city just has conservative / boring tastes?

We have an independent but they can be quite pricey, I know it isn’t easy to run a shop in these times but it puts me off.


#89

online campaigns/promotions at Waitrose cellar are usually worth the look.

but agree that “in shop”, the range is meh


#90

Here is Victoria’s piece from yesterday’s Telegraph.

The naked truth about Majestic Wine’s decline

Four years after a ‘reverse takeover,’ the beloved, beleaguered retailer is up for sale.

For wine drinkers the length and breadth of the country, Majestic Wine has long been an important presence on the retail scene. Revolutionary when it first opened, it bridged the gap between the indies and the supermarkets; and it did so with style, offering attractive bottles at affordable prices.

By summer, however, Majestic may be gone. This week Rowan Gormley, its chief executive, announced that the brand and its 200 or so stores were up for sale – “We are open to any permutation of sale, from someone buying the whole business through to people wanting to buy a number of stores.” If no one does step up, then the Majestic business will be run down, the name dropped, and what remains of it subsumed into Naked Wines, the online business that is part of the same group.

Should we mind about this? Sadly, the reality is that we lost Majestic from the moment Gormley took charge, in 2015, when Majestic acquired Naked Wines in a “reverse takeover” worth £70m. Sure, Majestic did need an overhaul and the South African-born entrepreneur seemed to agree, saying he felt there was exciting potential to take Majestic forward because bricks-and-mortar retailing was missing a trick. “The way we sell wine isn’t a lot more advanced than it was when I arrived here in 1987. No one’s done anything other than price.”

But the disconnect between the values and ethos of Majestic and Gormley’s Naked always looked – and has proved – as unbridgeable as that between Remainers and Brexiteers.

Majestic thrived on a sense of straightforward value and “what you see is what you get”. It bought cheap land out of town, sourced good (and also many average) wines and piled them up, warehouse style, so customers could drive away having filled their (car) boots.

It also hired young staff bitten by the wine bug, trained them up and sold on their knowledge and passion as well as the sincerity of their tips: many luminaries of today’s wine trade could once be found hefting boxes around branches of Majestic.

Naked Wines, meanwhile, was founded in 2008 by Gormley – an accountant by training, and a marketing man at heart. It has always seemed long on artifice and short on substance, brazenly exploiting the insecurities and concerns of those who feel intimidated by wine but comfortable in front of a screen. For instance, the company taps into millennial concerns about social sustainability with slogans about “supporting independent winemakers”. This ignores the fact that literally every time you go into a shop and buy a bottle of wine made by a small producer then you are supporting that small producer. It also skates over the fact that, “We do buy most of our grapes on the bulk market. Or find them there first,” as Gormley told me in 2015, adding that “less than 25%” of wine is bought as bulk” (the company says the figure is less today). So yes, Naked has on occasion provided upfront funding to grateful independent winemakers. But the bigger picture tells a different story.

At times Naked’s promotional bluster has crossed the line: last year one campaign exhorted, with shades of Michael Gove: “Don’t trust wine critic recommendations – they need to seem useful or they’ll be out of a job! So they invent trends and are paid to push you towards certain wines.” When I and others challenged this on Twitter, Gormley made an apology and a charitable donation.

So what big ideas did Gormley have for Majestic? Over the last four years we have seen the company slowly Naked-ified. Its press releases got sharper and more agenda-setting. Its language has taken on a matey tone that appeals to some but grates on anyone who would rather speak to a customer service department than a customer happiness team. A lot of energy went into increasing customer and staff engagement – for example: more focus on tasting; a new “wine concierge service”; an online ratings system and a “franchise-light” programme to incentivise managers.

For me, the problem was the wines. My hit rate at Majestic tastings began to tank. It wasn’t that they were terrible – not usually, anyway – more that too many were insipid, or easily beatable elsewhere, and so impossible to recommend. I knew things were bad when my dad – a diehard Majestic customer – shelled out for a Wine Society membership.

In its new incarnation, Majestic went big on own-label: buyer Beth Pearce recently told a conference that around half of Majestic’s wine is now “private label”. What does that mean? In Naked-speak it means “exclusive” wines. In reality, anyone can have wine made or blended to order to ensure no one else has exactly the same thing. Laithwaites and M&S have been doing this for years. The problem is “exclusive” doesn’t necessarily mean better – though it does mean the customer can’t run a price comparison to check they’re getting the best deal.

I kept meaning to write a general state-of-affairs piece about Majestic and talked to its retail & managing director Josh Lincoln just before Christmas. Majestic had just reported a loss of £0.2 million in its half year results. Lincoln talked a lot about “the heavy lifting” that had been going on within the business to “build the foundations”. He told me that only “15 to 20 per cent” of Majestic’s sales came from online. “There’s a lot of talk – is the high street dead? I see only opportunities. Shopping’s never been better.” But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was missing the real story, so I never wrote the piece.

Now here it is. Or is it? A consistent theme in Naked’s marketing is inverted snobbery. “Spend more than £30 on a bottle of wine and you’re mainly shelling out for brand name and reputation,” is one of its lines. Is that a bit rich coming from a company that in its last report and accounts announced the intention to double spending on new customer acquisition from £14 million to £28 million? Maybe.

Continue reading those accounts and you notice that one independent guy who seems to have done rather well for himself is Gormley. While his package seems modest, in CEO terms, at £343,000 in 2017/18, his remuneration has consistently been geared to shares rather than cash.

At the end of the last financial year his shareholding in Majestic ran to 4,526,881 ordinary shares, with the final tranche due to be vested in April. Does this make his decision to sell off Majestic now look like a dangerous strategy? The stock market’s reaction was not good – Majestic shares lost 18.5 per cent of their value in the two days following the announcement, and were valued at 220p at the time of writing. However, with private investors circling around Majestic, what will happen next is anyone’s guess


#91

Good article, I just can’t see how naked are going to survive with their current strategy :tipping_hand_woman:‍♀.


#92

I agree. Sadly I suspect the only winner will be Rowan Gormley (who I met in the early days of Naked and really didn’t warm to).


#93

Like many others here, my main concern is what happens to Lay & Wheeler, of whom I have been a regular and happy customer for years. I’m sure the wines I have in reserves with them at VInoteque are fine, but there are stories of other merchants going under and customers not receiving wines bought en primeur and still held abroad. I might think twice about buying EP from L&W for the moment. I do hope this historic business ends up being run by someone who will nurture it; I don’t think it really fits in with Naked’s business model or market.

I’ll miss being able to collect wines at my local Majestic branch, but in reality that’s the only time I’ve ever been in. The online and delivery services used to be exemplary but I don’t think I’ve bought more than 6 bottles from Majestic since becoming a member of TWS almost 10 years ago. It is a sad passing, but unsurprising.

As for Naked, there’s a chance they’ll do alright. Subscription model, online focus, wines designed to be accessible, marketing designed to appeal counter-cultural. Ticks a lot of boxes, but certainly not mine.


#94

Exactly - enormous appeal for the vast majority of the population for whom The Wine Society sounds like posh nobs in banking


#95

I wonder if the natural wine market is more appealing to them than nakeds marketing machine though?


#96

That’ll be two emperors with no clothes then…


#97

Waitrose carries a range of Rustenberg wines that is very drinkable. They also carry some Rioja Alta and a range of German Rieslings that also good.


#98

At a higher price than TWS I note. Also they don’t specify the vintage, though the bottle shows 2001, which I doubt and think for the Arana, at 18 years, would probably be well past it’s best.


#99

It’s difficult to beat the TWS when it comes to price. I would use Waitrose when time was of essence. I would never build a stock from them.


#100

With 25% off deals, it can be attractive.