Wine merchants work to ensure our favorite brands of wine are available in retail or department stores whenever we need them. They purchase wine from producers, import from foreign nations, and stock them in stores. If you have a high sense of commercial awareness, and you have a passion for wine, you could become a wine merchant. Read on to find out how.
1. What Do Wine Merchants Do?
Their duties include:
- Studying consumption trends to determine the amount of wine to stock
- Advising buyers on the history and geography of various wines
- Identifying the best producers of wine in foreign countries before importing
- Planning deliveries for ordered wines
- Displaying wines in a manner that is visually appealing
- Staying abreast of product developments in the wine market
- Maintaining business records
- Ensuring compliance to UK and EU wine laws and regulations.
2. Work Environment
Wine merchants typically work up to 40 hours a week, including evening and weekends. Although they are primarily based in their stores or offices, they occasionally travel abroad to sample new wines and close importing deals.
The job can be physically demanding, as it may involve lifting heavy cartons or crates.
According to the National Careers Service, wine merchants starting out in the business earn around £16,000 per year, and assistant retail managers could earn £22,000 annually. Experienced wine merchants can make over £35,000 per year.
4. Entry Requirements
There is no defined entry route for this profession. You could start as a sales assistant at a wine store and work your way up. Apart from being at least 18 years old, you need a good grasp of math and English, and an interest in wines to get hired as a wine sales assistant.
Some large wine stores like Liberty Wines in London offer apprenticeship programs that can help you to get started in the industry. At Liberty Wines, for instance, the apprenticeship will take you two years to complete, and you will learn about all aspects of the UK wine business from veteran merchants.
5. Career Progression
How do you advance from being a salesman to a wine merchant? Firstly, you will keep learning about the trade on the job. As your experience increases, pursue a diploma or degree in wine business.
Some of the institutions offering relevant credentials include:
- Wine & Spirit Education Trust, London
- Plumpton College, Sussex
Upon completion, you can join the general management training scheme of a company involved in wine business, after which you will be hired as a wine merchant.
You can then proceed to earn the Master of Wine (MW) credential from the Institute of Masters of Wine.
6. Important Qualities
To be a successful wine merchant, you need:
- Excellent business skills
- A good instinct for retail
- Excellent negotiation skills
- Strong math skills
- Strong sales skills
- Market research skills
- Analytical skills to judge the quality of wine
- Decision-making skills
- Customer service skills
- Communication skills
- A deep interest in wine
- Marketing skills.
7. Job Opportunities
The employers of wine merchants include:
- Large wine stores
- Wine importers
- Wine producers/Distillers
With several years of experience and the MW credential, you can get hired as a retail manager for a national retail chain. Or, with sufficient startup capital, you could move into self-employment and become an independent merchant.
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Finally, the UK is an attractive market for wine producers and retailers. As a result, the Wine and Spirits Trade Association notes that the UK wine industry contributes about 1.1 million jobs to the economy. This means wine professionals, including merchants, have strong employment prospects.
So, if you would like to engage in the trade of wine and ensure consumers never miss their favorite bottles, this could be the right job for you.