First Quench links up with South African wine trade body

UK drinks retail group First Quench hopes to position itself as the leading high street retailer of South African wine, after linking up with marketing body Wines of South Africa for a major UK push.

As part of the campaign, First Quench – which has more than 2,300 outlets, trading as Thresher, Wine Rack, Bottoms Up, Victoria Wine and Haddows – will be stocking more than 50 different South African wines. It will also be launching an eight-strong own-label range under the brand name Imbizo, a Zulu word for “gathering of people”.

According to AC Nielsen figures, South Africa has overtaken Spain as the fifth-biggest wine exporter to the UK, and is now just behind the US. Although South Africa produces only three per cent of the world’s wine, it accounts for eight per cent of the &£8bn UK market. Wines of South Africa says British drinkers account for more than half the country’s wine exports.

First Quench has seen a turnaround in its fortunes since the appointment of David Williams as chief executive in January 2001, by Japanese finance house Nomura, which bought the company from Whitbread and Punch Taverns for &£225m at the end of 2000. Figures for the year to March 2002 show an operating profit of &£33m, compared with losses of &£29m a year earlier. Williams poached Thomas Cook marketing director Kevin Styles to be First Quench’s sales and marketing director in January (MW January 17).

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