In an age when the bulk of the wine trade seems to be dominated by supermarket giants like ASDA and Tesco, and the bigger off-license-style wine vendors like Oddbins and Threshers seem to be falling by the wayside, it’s an increasingly rare delight to come across an independent retailer in the UK – particularly a really good one.
Introducing the Midlands’ finest: Frazier’s Wine Merchants. With over fifty years’ experience under their belt and two stores in the Midlands area (one in Tiddington, Stratford on Avon and one in Lapworth, Solihull), Frazier’s represents a genuine success story in times of great cynicism in the world of independent wine retailers.
The company history is an inspiring story of “five generations” of family ownership – a tradition that Managing Director John Frazier is keen to keep at the heart of the company: “I put my name on the business as a personal guarantee of quality and service. If you are unhappy you know exactly who to contact,” he says, although: “due to the efforts of the team, I don’t get many calls of that nature”.
Frazier’s displays a traditional ethos of good customer service and industry expertise, along with a diversity in approach – providing wholesale services alongside its shop outlets – and a willingness to embrace new challenges as and when they crop up.
Director William Frazier, responsible for business development, is helping the company keep abreast of the 21st century industry evolution and has helped the company develop an expansive website showcasing a plethora of wines from all the classic regions (with a wide range of Bordeauxs) and even some stocks from lesser-known areas such as Lebanon and indeed England.
The company is keen to expand into new channels. Acknowledging the opportunities provided by a web presence in helping regional companies like Frazier’s reach a wider audience, William says, it’s “just another channel of communication, but it’s instant and available 24/7”. He does, however, feel it’s important to have some perspective when considering the recent explosion in web-based communication in the wine world:
“The wine trade is very excited at the moment. People are making real money on the claret in their cellars. I’m sure that if (or when) the market slows down, so will the twitterati.”
Frazier’s do use both Twitter and Facebook as a means of keeping abreast of the wine world on the web, and they also run an active blog. They’re already showing signs of technological interest that are all-too-often a rarity among their fellow merchants; they’ve even started to branch out into YouTube, as the following video clip demonstrates:
Ultimately, it’s the versatility of Frazier’s that seems to help them maintain a strong business model in today’s competitive markets, as MD John Frazier acknowledges:
“The shops are a vital part of the business; fashions come and go and as one section of the business suffers another does well. Relying on one sector – be it retail, hotels or weddings – would never have enabled us to last this long. The stores help us pick up quickly on trends as people come and ask for wines. We are also a logistics business with a delicate cargo and as a part of the Merchant Vintners we are a regional business, so we are committed to the Midlands. However the internet has given us opportunity to sell our wines all over the UK.”
John is chiefly responsible for the buying of Frazier’s considerable stocks of Burgundy and Bordeaux wines, as well as “sourcing wines from Chile and Argentina” though his work for Merchant Vintners.
With over 40 years in the business behind him, and the numerous innovations in communication in that time, John still cites the importance of travel to his work:
“It is vital to know your suppliers and the area in which the wines are grown. In well made wines you can taste the ‘terroir’. Having visited an area or a vineyard gives you the full picture. Without the full picture how can you comment?”
To have kept Frazier’s going strong while others have risen and fallen in turn must have been no mean feat, but John maintains it’s “a simple business,” saying: “We buy wines we enjoy. We buy wines our customers enjoy. We buy some wines which we think will improve with cellaring and keep them until ready for sale”.
And that’s all there is to it? I’d almost be tempted to go and set up my own company, but for the fact that – while there are companies like Frazier’s out there – there really doesn’t seem the need.
Is John Frazier worried about the changing face of today’s markets? Not really:
“Retail and wholesale – they are effectively service industries. We need to have the right products at the right time at the right price for the customer. As long as we keep doing that we will have a place. There’s a place for cellar door sales, especially as you can take the terroir home with you, but with the logistics of the wine trade – shipping, storage, selection – ordering a case from a dozen vineyards for the year’s drinking is simply not possible for everyone, however giving us a call is”.
You can give Frazier’s a call, or – better still – pop round to one of their stores, as located on the Google map above. Alternatively, if you’re not native to the Midlands, why not check out the selection on their website?
You won’t be disappointed.