Thinking small, selling big

21 September, 2007

Richard Verney, of Nuggs 1268, speaks to Patricia Langton about the retailer's alternative wine offering and the first shop's compelling history

Nuggs 1268 was founded as an upmarket wine and fine food store by entrepreneur Roger Pedder, who has an extensive background in UK retail across various sectors, including drinks - he is the chairman of Bargain Booze. Nuggs is quite a different concept, specialising in premium wines from smaller producers, high-quality olive oils, gourmet foods and cookery accessories.

The Nuggs flagship store was opened in Salisbury in October 2006, followed by Richmond in December 2006 and Fulham in February 2007. On Sept 5 Nuggs opened for business in Kingston upon Thames at 1 Market Place, a prime location in the heart of the town's shopping district. The store is presented on two storeys and is the most ambitious to date. Richard Verney, wine manager for Nuggs, tells OLN about it.

What was the inspiration behind Nuggs 1268 and where did the name come from?

We opened our flagship store in Salisbury last October in an original Tudor building on the market square. Our research into the building site revealed that an even earlier building which had stood on the same spot from 1268 was owned for two centuries by one of Salisbury's most eminent merchants, Hugh Nuggs. Trading from the same spot and with the same passion for excellence, over 700 years later, it seemed fitting to name our business after him and the earliest date of his occupancy.

Describe the approach to the wine range and wine retailing.

We are buying wines from small independent wineries to offer the consumer a valid alternative selection to the multiple wine retailers. We have a range of 450 wines from all over the world, with no particular focus on any one country.

When did you start to arrange wines by style and has this been successful?

We started right from the beginning and have found this to be very successful. We find that it offers the slightly less knowledgeable consumer an easily understandable way of purchasing wines.

How does the mix of products work?

Do many customers buy wine and food or food-related products on the same visit, or do purchases tend to be separate? Which area of the business is the most profitable?

Yes, consumers do buy a mix of products on the same visit. They are very receptive to our food and wine matching system within the store, where customers are encouraged to buy food to go with their wine purchases and vice versa. We've introduced price tickets for wine which offer 12 different food suggestions, and we're increasingly cross-merchandising wine - for example we're putting port wines near cheese and Banyuls (Rhône dessert wine) near the chocolate range.

With regard to profits, the margin on wine is less than on many of the food items, but we see the wine as a very strong part of our product mix and therefore we do not want to give it any less prominence.

How has Nuggs evolved since the first store opened in 2006?

We have evolved by integrating our wines into our food areas rather than having a separate wine shop within a shop. We have also developed a range of organic and biodynamic wines and have consolidated our wine range to be more precise, but at the same time cover more areas. We had around 700 wines with a lot of duplicates - we had 20 Pinot Noirs from New Zealand, and now we've got four from three different regions: Central Otago, Marlborough and Hawkes Bay. For each wine we ask ourselves: "Does it taste fantastic, does it match our criteria (generally smaller producers) and what does it add to the range?"

Which aspects have worked well and which haven't, especially with reference to the wine range and wine promotions?

Our strong Champagne and producer-led promotions have been very successful, with the higher-priced wines selling more than predicted, but the sales of lower-priced wines have been less good than we had originally hoped.

Why did you choose Kingston as the location for your latest store and is it different in any way to the established stores?

Nuggs 1268 takes great care in selecting retail locations to match the quality of its brand and corporate identities. We particularly chose Kingston upon Thames because it is a much-loved shopping centre and heritage town serving a wide surrounding area. Whenever possible Nuggs likes to select historic buildings to add to the ambience of the whole shopping experience, so No 1 Market Place was an ideal location.

It's similar to our Salisbury store, but the layout is better and we've launched the chocolate, coffee and tea ranges here. We started with a wine shop and we've added to it.

Is more expansion in the wine side on the horizon for Nuggs?

Yes, we will be opening more stores with wine as a key part of our varied product mix.

Five wines from the Nuggs range

Uva Mira Chardonnay 2006, Stellenbosch, South Africa £18.95

Bergerie de l'Hortus Classique Rouge 2005, Pic S t Loup, France £9.99

Gavi di Gavi Mainin La Ghibellina 2006, Italy £9.95

Drappier Brut Carte d'Or NV Champagne £17.99

Henri Bourgeois, Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2006, Loire, France £7.99

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