Negociants MD: ‘move to Fells will benefit on-trade’

Chris Losh

Chris Losh

11 May 2018

Negociants is to close its UK office next month and join John E Fells. The Australian firm’s office, set up in 1990, will close on 9 June, with all distribution being taken over by Fells two days later.

All of the key Yalumba and Hill Smith brands will be migrating across – Oxford Landing, Pewsey Vale, Vasse Felix and Jansz, from Australia and Two Paddocks from New Zealand.

The only brands not to make the move to Fells are Brokenwood, Chaffey Bros, Rockford and Jim Barry. The latter announced earlier this week that it was transferring its distribution to Hallgarten Druitt & Novum wines.

The Hill Smith family, owners of Negociants, have taken a stake in Fells, alongside the Symington and Torres families, forming a powerful tri-partite of non-competing wine dynasties. The arrival of Negociants brings an extra £20m of turnover to the merchant.

‘We believe moving our premium brands into the Fells portfolio, coupled with the Hill Smith family taking a stake in the company, will bring long term strategic benefits to both businesses,’ said Simon Thorpe MW, Negociants UK’s managing director.

The company was adamant that the move should be seen as an increase of commitment to the UK, not a scaling down of operations in what it called ‘an evolving marketplace’.

‘This is a coming together of two strong and successful family owned wine businesses who share similar values,’ said Thorpe.  ‘It definitely demonstrates a commitment from Yalumba to the UK market.’

It is optimistic, too, about the likely impact of sales of Yalumba’s wines – in particular in the on-trade.

‘The move is absolutely about giving our wines better access to the premium on-trade as part of a wider, more comprehensive portfolio of world class wines,’ Thorpe told Imbibe. ‘Sometimes we have found selling solely wines from Australia and New Zealand has limited the number of restaurants who would consider taking Negociants on as a supplier.’

One of the striking features of the move is how little cross-over there is with the current Fells portfolio. While Fells do have Australian and New Zealand wines on their books, they are mostly very different. Seifried and Te Mata, for instance, are from Nelson and Hawkes Bay respectively, and do not clash with Negociants’ Two Paddocks, actor Sam Neill’s wine from Central Otago.

In Australia, Fells currently has Tyrells (Hunter Valley) and Torbreck, which could be considered a clash with the powerful Yalumba Barossa range – though it operates at a higher level than much of the latter’s portfolio. Brown Brothers (Victoria) recently announced its decision to quit the UK.

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