A boom in private customers has enabled a Stratford-based wine merchants to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.
Underwood Wines, founded in 1980 by brothers Nick and Tim Underwood, sells wine, spirits, beers and ciders, and also acts as a broker for those looking for very old or rare vintages.
Although parts of the business have suffered during lockdown, including the supply to pubs and events, Underwood Wines almost quadrupled its sales of drinks to private customers during lockdown.
“We knew plenty of people wanted a nice bottle of wine at a good price during lockdown,” said Nick.
“Since people haven’t been able to go out to restaurants, we felt many people would be interested in having good, affordable wines that they can enjoy at home.
“We reached out to our strong base of private customers and encouraged them to try new wines. As other parts of our business were doing well before the lockdown, it was something we had left alone for a little bit.
“But thanks to them and many new customers ordering drinks from us, we’ve been able to keep the business going.
“Although our turnover has dropped, sales to private customers was the one part of our business that really flourished.
“And our biggest sellers during lockdown were New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs and Riojas, costing between £7 and £11.
“Most of our customers didn’t want anything too obscure or expensive – many were just looking for a nice wine to enjoy while they were stuck at home.
“Their custom has kept us going, and we’re extremely grateful to all of them.”
Underwood Wines had received a grant from Stratford District Council to help keep the business going while the lockdown was beginning to bite.
Nick would have hoped for a strong summer in any other year – much of the firm’s turnover comes from supplying summer events such as weddings, outdoor parties and other occasions.
But now pubs and restaurants are slowly beginning to reopen, Nick is hopeful Underwood Wines can come out of the lockdown in a healthy state.
Cllr Jo Barker, Portfolio Holder for People at Stratford District Council, added: “It’s great to hear how Underwood Wines has been able to keep going during these immensely challenging times for businesses in our district.
“We’re very pleased that Nick and Tim have been able to use their grant to help them stay afloat, and that they’ve been able to generate a huge boost in their private sales.
“It’s brilliant to help a wine merchant out – I had a great time talking wine when I met them and I’ll definitely be visiting again.
“They’re a credit to our district and we wish them all the best as we ease our way out of lockdown.”
Businesses are being now supported by Stratford District Council to promote the safe reopening of the High Streets in response to Covid-19 through the Government’s Reopening High Streets Safely Fund which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).