Norwich-based Virgin Wines reveals how independence has helped drive growth

Jay Wright, CEO of Virgin Wines.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Jay Wright, CEO of Virgin Wines.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

An online wine seller which broke away from its parent company two years ago has revealed how greater freedom has allowed it to target ambitious growth.

Norwich-based Virgin Wines, which employs 150 people, is set to reach the £40m turnover mark this year, with thousands of customers switching to online sales each year.

Now the company, which changed hands in a £15.9m management buy-out backed by Mobeus Equity Partners and Connection Capital in 2013, wants to become the 'Interflora' of the wine world.

Chief executive Jay Wright, who has been at the company for eight years, also wants wine bank – where customers pay into a fund and earn 20% on extra – to be at the heart of the business.

'It has been a really exciting couple of years,' he said. 'Independence gives you the opportunity to truly think about the strategy from a selfish perspective.

'You have to have compromises when you are in a larger group. We only need to think about what's right for Virgin Wines and for our customers. With I thought 'there's a massive market for people who don't want flowers.'

Sales at the gift side of the business, which sells spirits, wines and beers, reached £400,000 in its first year, and just under £1m this year.

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Turnover at the firm, based in St James Mill, near the law courts, reached £37.1m for the year ending July 3, 2015, up 4.8% from £35.4m the year before. Pre-tax profits rose 65% to £2m for the same period.

Mr Wright said the aim was to reach £50m turnover within two years, but added: 'I am not wholly focused on that, I'm much more worried about doing the right thing. The sales take care of themselves.'

Mr Wright founded a company called Warehouse Wines in 2000 and sold it to Direct Wines in 2002, before merging it with Virgin Wines and becoming chief executive of the bigger business.

Under the new ownership, he said there were greater freedoms, including the option to export.

'It was an opportunity. Direct Wines needed to raise money to find some international expansion, and I wanted to take Virgin Wines out again.

'With independence we can do what we want now. We have investors and we have monthly board meetings but they are very supportive and proud of what we are achieving.'

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