JN Wine and Highbury Vintners are celebrating a hat-trick of successes at the International Wine Challenge (IWC) UK Merchant Awards.
Highbury Vintners won both the IWC Regional Merchant of the Year for London and the coveted IWC Small Independent Merchant of the Year award for the first time, while JN Wine based in County Down was recognised as the IWC Regional Merchant of the Year for Northern Ireland.
In September 2019, the leading Northern Ireland company JN Wine acquired Highbury Vintners and immediately unveiled plans for major investment in the London wine retailer before the pandemic struck.
Since this strategic acquisition, as well as store refurbishment and digital investment, Highbury Vintners has doubled turnover with plans to expand the business further underway. Across the entire companies, online sales have increased more than 300% due to demand during lockdowns.
Following the introduction of the NI protocol, the company has also attributed its unique geographical positions to part of its success, with bases in Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and GB.
Commenting on recent growth and the increased opportunities that the protocol has presented, Managing Director James Nicholson said, “Sales in Highbury Vintners have grown by 55% in the past year, and we are continuing to invest to drive this growth further. We have also experienced a substantial increase in sales from Northern Ireland to the UK market since the introduction of the NI protocol. There have certainly been challenges across European markets but there have also been opportunities, particularly given our unique position and that we have bases now in a range of markets. We can deliver easily and efficiently, no matter where people are based.”
With regards to the recent prestigious recognition, James Nicholson added: “We were really thrilled to acquire Highbury Vintners, ensuring its legacy continues, and this recognition has really highlighted the success of this approach.
“Everyone across JN Wine and Highbury Vintners has gone above and beyond since the pandemic struck and have continued to offer a great service. Winning these prestigious awards is fitting recognition of their efforts and how we really work closely together to deliver on our commitment to offer high quality wines from family and artisan wineries around the world.”
General Manager of Highbury Vintners, Tom Hemmingway said everyone at the wine retailer is delighted with the awards.
He said: “This has been one of the most challenging times for the wine trade, but everyone has worked hard to keep our customers satisfied. The team certainly deserves this recognition and it is fantastic to see this after the focused investment and acquisition.
“During the past year we have also rebuilt our website, refurbished our shop and continued our charitable work in the community. Most of all, we have remained true to our offering and values to bring our customers excellent wine from across the globe.”
Speaking about winning the Northern Ireland IWC Regional Merchant of the Year award, James Nicholson said his team certainly deserved this fitting accolade.
“This has been the most challenging period for the wine trade, we have never experienced anything like it, yet our team consistently rose to the challenge of providing our customers with the choice, value and service they have come to expect from JN Wine.
“Our business model changed a great deal as the hospitality sector was closed down for a long period and we pivoted to online sales and home deliveries.
“The team just didn’t stop, even now we are starting to take corporate gift orders for Christmas which I hope is a signal of more normal times returning.”
The International Wine Challenge UK Merchant Awards celebrate the most successful small and large businesses, delivering an outstanding service to wine consumers across the UK.