While the wine industry feels the pinch, one local wine merchant is celebrating his company’s first anniversary following a successful year.
Simon Jackson set up Yorkshire Vintners on his own in June last year, fully knowing the challenges of entering a market which had been badly hit by the recession.
He had previously worked as operations director for the wine supplier Playford Ros, where he’d been employed for ten years before being made redundant when the company was bought out of administration by House of Townend last September.
Having harboured no secret desires before that moment to set up a business on his own, Simon found himself having to consider going it alone because of a dearth of jobs in the industry.
“It was completely prompted by redundancy,” he said.
“I’d been very happy at Playford Ros and had no ambitions to leave. It was a good job.”
He knew he wanted to stay in the wine trade and after speaking to some of his former customers built up the confidence to give it a go on his own.
“For the first six months, I traded from a customer’s cellar to keep overheads low and to see if there was a business there. It grew quite nicely and after six months, I formed Yorkshire Vintners,” he said.
The business is now based at the Sycamore Business Park just outside Ripon, employs three members of staff including buying administrator Claire Lawrence, and has its own delivery van.
And with customer numbers growing each week and month-on-month increases in sales, Simon, 33, is delighted with Yorkshire Vintners’ first year performance in a tough and competitive market.
“It was a big gamble for me to start my own business, but the work and commitment has paid off,” he said.
“Here we are a year on, growing and investing in new staff at a time when others are cutting numbers.”
A former Boroughbridge High School student who now lives in Ripon, Simon attributes Yorkshire Vintners’ success to the personal service the company provides to its customers.
“The big factor I saw through experience and the thing we have played on is the service and the quality, while at the same time being competitively priced. A lot of my competitors are much larger than me and can’t offer that personal service. We need to keep that in mind as we grow,” he said.
About 85 per cent of Yorkshire Vintners’ business is to restaurants in the area, with 15 per cent to private customers. It supplies some of its bespoke wines to venues such as The Dining Room in Boroughbridge, Lockwoods in Ripon, Middlethorpe Hall in York and the Bull in West Tanfield. The company also holds regular wine tasting events.
“I’ve seen nice, steady growth which we can manage from a cash flow and a service point of view,” added Simon.
“It’s important that we keep investing in the business and finding new target markets. As well as listening to what our existing customers want, we are now looking to new avenues for growth.”
And as for that redundancy, does he now look back on it as a silver lining?
“The redundancy was the toughest time I’ve gone through from a work point of view but, from where I’m sitting today, it’s the best thing that could ever have happened to me,” he said.
“I genuinely didn’t have any ambition to do this on my own and it’s a lot of stress and hassle but it’s great fun and great to work for yourself.”