Statement just in from Berry Bros below. I must say that Heathrow's increased security checks – or more precisely the slower lines for exactly the same security checks as before – have made me wonder about the effect they must be having on airside retailers. Seems from what I hear that Berrys is hurtling towards an online-only relationship with their customers, although they have such fabulous real estate in London's St James's, including a lively set of what are now known as 'function rooms' in their cellars that I suppose there's little chance of their giving up human contact there. And they have recently opened what is effectively a factory outlet store at their Basingstoke HQ. But gone are the days when they try to test the upward price limit on bottles to be sold to outgoing Japanese travellers.
'After twelve years at Heathrow Airport in partnership with BAA, Berry Bros. & Rudd has regretfully announced its intention to cease trading at the airport and close its shops at all four terminals. Whilst a specific closure date is yet to be announced, it is envisaged this will be within the next three months.
'There is no doubt that the early success of the Heathrow shops put BB&R on the map as a supplier of fine wines to connoisseurs on every continent. However, the world has changed since 1994 and modern communication methods make it possible to reach international customers in many different ways.
'Berrys' Retail Director, Robin McMillan, says: "The years have provided their challenges but we have always endeavoured to meet these through adapting our brand and offer to meet the ever changing sets of circumstances that come with trading in such a dynamic environment.
'"Airports are wonderful environments for luxury goods but the current combination of some of the world's most competitive retail floor space with the relatively low margins applicable to fine wines ultimately made it impossible for us to compete for space," says Robin, who adds: "However, the unique audience Heathrow provides is ideally suited to our offer and, should circumstances alter, a return to that environment is not out of the question in the longer term."
'Robin continues: "We are obviously disappointed to have to close our operations at Heathrow but feel we are now able to provide our international clients with the finest range of wines and highest levels of service through other more recently developed channels; in particular our award-winning website at www.bbr.com and our international outlets in Hong Kong, Ireland and Japan."
'Mark Riches, Managing Director of BAA Global Retail and World Duty Free comments: "Berry Bros. & Rudd have always been a supportive and committed partner and have shared in our spirit of using innovative ideas to excite the customer. However, we obviously respect this decision and wish them every success in further developing their domestic and international business and I very much hope we can work with them again in the future - this may be the close of the current chapter but (I sincerely hope) it's not the end of the story. We will now take the fine wine offer into our own core business and seek to grow it as a category on the back of the success of our high performing liquor business. In doing that, I have no doubt that we will take on board the valuable lessons that evolved from Berrys' pioneering approach." '