Virgin Wines stocked up a year early to avoid Christmas supply crisis

·2-min read

Virgin Wines has announced a jump in sales and said it was confident it would avoid the supply chain chaos affecting other retailers because it had stocked up for this Christmas last year.

Shares in the online drinks retailer, which floated on the London Stock Exchange earlier this year, rose after it said it had begun making preparations in 2020 to “mitigate any issues around lack of stock availability” and expected to have a full range on offer.

Shoppers have begun buying Christmas dinner items, including turkey, much earlier than usual this year in response to widespread supply problems in the food and drink sector caused by a shortage of HGV drivers and warehouse staff that has led to empty shelves and reduced ranges in supermarkets.

Some retailers have resorted to using cardboard cutouts of fruit and veg to hide the gaps. The chief executive of Sainsbury’s, Simon Roberts, said on Thursday that the company was making every effort to lay its hands on stock, but customers may have to settle for a “good alternative” to what they were looking for. Shares in the company gained 4.6% to 192.5p, although they remain below the March float price of 197p.

Virgin Wines shares had also risen on Wednesday, after the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announced sweeping changes to alcohol duty in his autumn budget, including an immediate tax freeze that came into effect at midnight.

The broader duty system will be overhauled to make it simpler, with all alcohol taxed in line with strength.

Virgin Wines, which is part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, reported strong sales figures that suggested it had prospered from the accelerated shift to online grocery ordering during the pandemic.

Firms that deliver alcoholic drinks have been particularly well-placed to benefit, with pubs and wine bars forced to close for much of the past 18 months because of restrictions to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Virgin Wines reported a 13.3% rise in sales during the three months to September compared with the same period of last year, and a 10.7% rise in customer numbers. Sales for the year to June were £73.6m, up by 30% on the previous year.

Pre-tax profits fell from £2.8m to £1.7m, but only because of a one-off £3.5m cost related to the company’s stock market float.

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