Majestic Wine

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Majestic Wine plc
Public company (AIM:MJW)
Industry Wine retailing
Founded 1980
Founder Sheldon Graner
Headquarters Watford, United Kingdom
Number of locations
176 in UK; 3 in France
Revenue £280.3m (12 months to 02/Apr/2012
£23.2m (12 months to 02/Apr/2012)
Subsidiaries Lay & Wheeler Ltd, WBI Ltd and Vinotheque Holdings Ltd

Majestic Wine plc is the United Kingdom's largest retailer of wine by the mixed case. (Majestic's own website uses both 'Majestic Wine plc' and 'Majestic Wine Warehouses Ltd'.)


Majestic Vintners was founded by Sheldon Graner in 1980. Graner gained his experience as a merchandiser with the John Lewis group, and coupled this with his passion and hobby as a wine broker/trader to set up Majestic. He called the business Majestic after his other passion, collecting early UK postage stamps, especially those of Kings Edward VII and George V. The initial design logo for the company was based on a definitive set of King George V postage stamps of 1929

In the late 1970s, wine could only be bought through off licences or specialist wine retailers, usually in city centres, and only during limited hours. Using his merchandising expertise, Graner conceived the idea of selling wine throughout the day via a warehouse, with a minimum purchase of 12 bottles (1 case) to comply with licensing laws at the time. Another innovation was that individual wines could be tasted before buying.

Graner opened his first wine warehouse in Harringay, North London,[1] in 1980, under the management of Tony Mason, brought in by Graner to manage the day-to-day activities. The second store was opened in Battersea in May 1981. In mid-1981, the group called in receivers, and was bought by investment banker Giles Clarke,[2] where as Chairman Clarke built it into a UK national chain. From August 1987 to May 1988, Clarke was chairman of Majestic Wine Corporation Inc, a United States company which owned a chain of 104 stores trading as Liquor Barn in California and Arizona.[3] Following disposal of the US-based businesses, Clarke sold the UK plc business of Majestic Wines for £15 million in 1989 to investors, and went on to form Pet City.

In 1986, Mason set up Wizard Wine under the same concept, which in 1987 was purchased by retailer Bejam. After Bejam was purchased by rival Iceland in 1989, Mason and partners John Apthorp (now retired) and Tim How (CEO until 2008) bought Wizard Wine from the heavily-indebted Iceland. In 1991, Wizard Wine purchased Majestic Wine PLC in a leveraged buyout, and merged under the Majestic Wine Warehouses brand as a private company.[4]


Headquartered in Watford, Hertfordshire, under the leadership of Tim How (CEO until 2008), Majestic Wine became a public company in 1996, floating on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM).

Majestic Wine operates as a mixed case retailer, selling a mixture of wine, champagne and spirits with a minimum purchase of six bottles in-store and six bottles for delivery and online. Having such a policy has allowed the retailer to offer their customers free tasting, free delivery and free glass hire.

Majestic Wine currently has 195 stores in the UK, owing its expansion and success to a combination of acquisition and development:

  • April 2000 - was launched, offering customers an online service. By 2007, online sales had risen to around £15 million per year with over 100,000 orders.
  • October 2001 - Majestic acquired Les Celliers de Calais, whose business was based around the British cross-channel trade. Now known as Wine & Beer World there are three stores in Calais, Coquelles and Cherbourg.
  • July 2003 - Majestic opened their first temperature controlled fine wine centre at St. John's Wood store. They currently have air conditioning installed at about half of their stores, but the largest amount of fine wine is still housed in the original St John's Wood store.
  • October 2005 - Launched Gift Solutions, an online service designed to allow customers to send gifts of less than 12 bottles. The company's 13th consecutive annual rise in turnover was recorded, with profits of £13.2m.[5]
  • March 2009 - Majestic acquired the privately owned companies: Lay & Wheeler Ltd, WBI Ltd and Vinotheque Holdings Ltd as the fine wine specialist arm of Majestic Wine Plc.[6]
  • June 2009 - Majestic published company report stating that the administrative costs had increased by £6 million from £10 million, head office staffing increased by 10%. Store staffing increased by a little over 1%. The increase in store numbers means that the store staffing increase is actually a real terms decrease.
  • September 2009 - Majestic reduced its in-store minimum purchase from 12 bottles to 6 bottles. The minimum purchase for online orders and deliveries remained at 12 bottles until 11 June 2012 when it was reduced to 6 bottles.[7]

In 2007 at the International Wine Challenge Awards, Majestic Wine was awarded both High Street Merchant of The Year 2007, and overall Merchant of The Year 2007, on the strength of their "Competitive prices, excellent customer service, impressive range". In the same year, Decanter Magazine awarded them Decanter High Street Chain of The Year 2007.


  1. ^ Majestic's first store was in Colina Mews, Harringay. Majestic's website mistakenly refers to this as Wood Green, the boundary of Wood Green is about a half mile further north.
  2. ^ About Us: National Council - C Giles Clarke Learning & Skills Council
  3. ^ tecc-IS plc - Directorate Change - 12 December 2003
  4. ^ About Majestic Majestic Wine plc
  5. ^ Growing Business Success Stories - Majestic Wines: Tim How
  6. ^
  7. ^

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