Another independent retailer lost
One of Sydney’s finest independent wine retailers, Ultimo Wine Centre, has been sold to Coles and will become a Vintage Cellars store.
Ending months of speculation, owner and founder Jon Osbeiston has sold the shop, and the settlement was due to take place on April 8. He has joined the permanent staff of Vintage Cellars.
However, Sydney wine-lovers have probably seen the last of Osbeiston on a shop floor, as he’ll be working as a broker from an upstairs office at the Vintage Cellars Double Bay store.
He will continue to look after some of his special Ultimo clients. Coles will re-badge the shop, at 99 Jones Street, Ultimo, as a Vintage Cellars and it will continue as an up-market fine wine business, presumably continuing to specialise in boutique Australian and the finest imported wines, especially French and Italian.
Coles spokesman Jim Cooper said: “Obviously there will be some tweaks to the range, but we take the view that you don’t buy these places with their successful and established business, just to tear up what’s there and start again. The focus will remain on fine wine.”
Both Coles and Woolworths were keen bidders for Ultimo, and Woolies had its hat in the ring until late in the process. Most of the staff including manager Renee Foster are staying on.
Ultimo has not dealt with the big Australian wine companies, such as Treasury and Accolade, for many years and I’d expect to see this change. No doubt some of VC’s range of exclusive imports will also be stocked.
Many observers will decry the loss of yet another top independent retailer to the supermarkets. There’s little doubt Ultimo’s massive product range will shrink somewhat, but we can only hope that the high level of service and staff knowledge for which Ultimo has always been famous will continue. We’ll have to wait and see.