No matter how well you know the wine industry and established you are in your role it is always a leap of faith, and risk, to move one from position to another. Particularly when you have been in your previous role for over nine years. But when the opportunity came up to be trade director for Jeroboams wholesale division Lucie Parker jumped at the chance. Here she talks to Richard Siddle about how excited she is about this new opportunity.
If you think Jeroboams is all about running its retail shops in prime London locations then think again as new trade director, Lucie Parker, explains to Richard Siddle.
“I wanted to join a smaller team and make my mark there,” is how Lucie Parker explains why she decided to leave her successful position at Liberty Wines effectively heading up its on–trade division as head of national sales.
She also joins Jeroboams at an exciting time in its history. For many this is a business famous for its premium chain of independent wine merchants in key locations across London, but this is not the reason why Parker has decided to join the business.
Her focus is very much on helping to build up the profile, reputation and distribution of its trade division that is still, it’s fair to be said, finding its feet after the business rebranded the previous Laytons trading division in 2018.
A move that was part of re-positioning the company under the more well known Jeroboams name creating three separate divisions: Jeroboams Retail in charge of its individual stores; Jeroboams Private looking after its private customers; and Jeroboams Trade focused on servicing the on-trade. In 2000 Jeroboams incorporated Laytons, forming Jeroboams Trade, which now looks after the importing side of the company.
Parker says that when she started to look seriously at the role it did not take her long to realise the potential and opportunity there was for her to join at just the right time. She also says it was a relatively easy decision to make the switch when you appreciate what “such a well-respected business” Jeroboams is. “To join at a point in time where the business is changing is a really exciting opportunity,” she adds.
Parker is also quick to point out what an excellent position the trade team was already in before she joined, with a very strong agency portfolio of premium family producers most of whom have been with Jeroboams for years. She adds that “as an independently owned business who are growing fast, we are always looking for new producers to add to our portfolio and represent in the UK.”
Her role to date has been more around giving the team a structure and a reporting system that helps the whole process of buying, ordering, distributing and selling wine to the on-trade.
Concentrating more on the ‘teamwork’ side of the trade department to make sure everyone is clear of their roles, responsibilities, and there is good feedback and communication across the group.
“It just needed a better structure,” she says. “They needed a stronger focus on what they were doing and a better direction in terms of sales, targets and objectives.”
She is also keen to do what she can to make more on-trade buyers and sommeliers aware of what Jeroboams Trade can potentially offer them: quality, small production wines, training, producer trips and a fine wine list that offers mature wines that can be ordered by the split case for next day delivery.
New management focus
Parker is also part of a new senior management team that has been reconfigured within come into Jeroboams in recent years to help add an extra layer of expertise to the business and what Parker sees as an opportunity to give it a “new focus” and added “confidence” about what a strong business model it has.
Matt Tipping, who joined the business as commercial director from Berry Bros & Rudd in 2016, took on the chief executive role from Hugh Sturges in 2020 and has been quick to bring in more experience to the company. In his role as commercial director he was instrumental in restructuring and strengthening its online business as well developing its retail and fine wine teams and growing the fine wine business and part of the management team that has seen revenues increase by over 30%.
“This really is a unique business,” she says, pointing to the combination of its strong, highly respected wine merchants business, a private client database that is second to none, and a wholesale division with an exciting portfolio of premium producers.
“People sometimes don’t really know what Jeroboams does. They think about our shops and nothing else. But this really is a unique business to be strong in retail, private clients, on-trade and corporate and we’re growing in other channels including travel and leisure.”
Parker is not the only recent senior recruit to the business. Alex Turnbull has joined from Justerini & Brooks in the new position of private sales manager to help drive an area of the business that saw 12% growth in 2021. Rob Manners, previously at Berry Bros & Rudd, joined last year and the business was given a huge boost recently when with his guidance, Jeroboams won the account to supply wine to Virgin Airways’ Upper Class cabins.
“We were all delighted to win that. It has given us confidence to go on and get similar contracts,” she says.
It also helps the whole Jeroboams team to win such prestigious accounts. It is that sense of all working together for a common goal which is very much at the heart of the Jeroboams culture.
Jasper Drew-Jones, formerly of Fields, Morris & Verdin, and sommelier Simone Sylvestre, with over 18 years of hospitality experience, have joined to develop new business across the on-trade and independent sectors and Parker would like to add more people to the sales team again this year.
She says it is great for the company to have people of this calibre coming into such an established business. “Sometimes you need new ideas and insights from outside to really make a difference.”
One area where Tipping is looking to make a difference is investing in new technology, says Parker. But technology that is going to give everyone in the business far more transparency about how it is performing and where the opportunities and pressure points are.
“There is a big emphasis on how technology can help all better understand our sales data so that we can track and analyse trends before and as they happen and act upon them. There are huge opportunities there,” says Parker.
She says the retail side is looking to expand its store network and has been on the look out for a while for the right locations. The stores have also been updated with a new fresh look, improved signage and more flexible shelving and display layout that allows us to easily flex our merchandising based on key time so of year and different type of customers.
“We can test and trial out wines in retail and then have the confidence they can work when looking to do sell into the trade,” she adds.
Part of Parker’s brief is to raise the profile, reputation and status of Jeroboams Trade with key on-trade buyers and sommeliers. “We have such a good story to tell it is just a case of getting out there more and telling it to people and letting them know what we can offer them.”
Her own experience working with venues and buyers across all channels of the trade gives her great confidence that Jeroboams can make a real difference given the chance to do so. But equally she knows busy buyers are not going to pick up the phone to them. They need to be out there talking and showing them the wines they know can work so well in their outlets.
“We do need to raise our awareness in the trade. I am not sure everyone knows what we can do for them. But that means it is also a huge opportunity as the same time,” she says.
“I am very lucky to have joined at such an exciting time.”