Thursday 28 March 2019

Terminal Two

So Majestic have started to crumble, apparently. There you go. Six years ago (Six whole years! Why did nobody tell me life would be like this?) I droned on about the collapse of the high street wine store and the ever-so-slightly faded retail experience that was Majestic (who were nonetheless picking up on the sales of their departed rivals). Slightly less than four years ago, PK droned on about a) Majestic's then-new single-bottle sales policy and b) yes, what a drag it was to visit one of their shops. Now Majestic are trying something else again, a spot of reverse engineering, tying themselves more visibly into their own latterday online grog floggers Naked Wines, while getting rid of some of their draggy retail premises. Is this is good thing?

Well, I hate to admit it, but I'm so unlikely to buy anything off Naked Wines it's down to a near-zero probability. I get the message - sign up for a monthly £20 payment into the kitty and enjoy a discount on your otherwise not especially keenly priced booze; and have the stuff brought to your house - but it doesn't really do it for me, especially given the fact that every time I order any wine online in any sort of quantity, there's a fuck-up with the delivery. So I can't see my old relationship with Majestic being leveraged into a new one with Naked, however relevant Naked may be to my wine needs.

More dismally, I have no relationship with Majestic for them to leverage. I can't remember the last time I went there (2013? It's possible). All I can summon up is nostalgia, the last thing anyone wants - an inner trip to the 1980's, when the absolute summit of gratification was to have a Golf Gti which you, or indeed, I, filled up with candidly unfamiliar wines from this wild new Majestic Wine retail opportunity and brought home to cries of admiration and surprise. I mean, it was a ton of fun, I had some great times and it was thirty years ago.

Meanwhile, it's hard to shake off the feeling that sooner or later Majestic are, like their defunct rivals, going to dwindle into non-existence. A tart assessment of matters by The Drinks Business sees them struggling to offload the retail sites they need to offload, given all the other expired wine retail sites clogging the place up after Threshers, Victoria, Wine Rack, Unwins and, more recently, Oddbins, gave up the ghost. It also points out that Naked, now the motive force behind the whole operation, leans a lot on international sales for its profits. Which is fine, but doesn't make it sound especially like a business with its full focus on the dumb British punter. Another, even tarter assessment, sees only cynical marketing and poor value as the main winners, whoever's buying. The upshot? Right now, we're given a reasonably comprehensive everyday service by the supermarkets, along with a handful of chi-chi wine specialists of the sort that PK patronises, plus the internet as all-purpose hilarity bazaar for anything else. Which I suppose means that Naked might survive for a while; breezeblock-and-tin-roof Majestic, less so.

As it happens, the branch of Victoria Wine at the end of our road, which closed ten? more? years ago - is finally being turned into something else, emblematically. In the second half of last year you could still peer through the abandoned, grimed, windows and make out old price tickets and point of sale boosters littering the floor. Now the scaffolding's gone up and the site's on the verge of becoming something mixed use, or just living spaces, or with another retail dead zone on the ground floor. It doesn't have one of those ads telling you to reserve a duplex now, posted on the cladding, the site's too small. All we can do is guess. Given the attrition rate of retailers and restaurateurs in our neck of the woods, you hope they don't build anything commercial into the property, it's too depressing. Also the parking's terrible just there. 

But if the same thing happens to the hundreds of ex-wine shops around the country, who am I to argue? At least it's something rather than nothing; and we need housing; and we can move on from the decline of the dinosaurs; and not even Majestic lasts for ever; and it's 2019, what do you expect? Or was it a Threshers?



  1. The last time I went to Majestic it was so complicated to work out the prices, with all of the multibuy deals & offers that I gave up

  2. That sounds only too plausible...


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.