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Where to Buy Wholesale Alcoholic Beverages for My Retail Store?

10 February 2023

One of the most profitable businesses to open is a store that sells alcoholic beverages to the public. Whether you are opening a local off-licence, a specialist wine store, or a retail store that stocks hard-to-find gin or whiskies, there is always a ready market of consumers for your products. 

However, competition is always fierce in the alcoholic beverage retail sector. To ensure your business stays profitable, you will need to secure a reliable source of products. This is why establishing a long-term relationship with a reputable alcoholic beverage wholesaler is absolutely crucial.

Many new entrepreneurs are unsure of how to go about finding a wholesale alcohol distributor and how to manage the relationship once it has been established. To give any budding beverage business owner a leg up, we have put together this quick guide on how you can find out where to buy alcoholic beverages for a retail store and what you should look for in a wholesaler. 

Clara Jammes

What products are best for a store that sells alcoholic beverages?

The market for alcoholic beverages of all kinds is huge in the UK. In fact, recent figures have  shown that UK consumers spend more than £6.5 billion per quarter on alcoholic beverages. (1) To succeed in the crowded, heavily competitive liquor industry, you will have to keep your clientele happy by making sure you stock exactly what they want to buy.

The type of retail store you plan to open will determine the products you choose to stock. Nowhere is this adage truer than in the alcoholic beverage retail sector. A small local off-licence will need a good selection of bottom, middle, and top-shelf alcoholic beverages. A speciality gin or whisky store will have to source unique liquors that are sought after by their clientele. A wine store may choose to specialise in wines from a certain region, for example, French wines from Provence or wines from local winemakers and vineyards in the UK. 

Alongside the types of alcoholic beverages you sell, a good retailer will also make sure to have a selection of non-alcoholic options available as well as mixers, glasses, bottle openers, snacks, and merchandise from beverage manufacturers. 

How can a retailer anticipate seasonal and market needs?

Staying up to date with what the market is looking for is sound advice in any retail sector. However, alcoholic beverage retailers need to watch trends and seasonal needs closely to anticipate customer demand. Is a certain type of gin making headlines because of a celebrity endorsement? Is a new craft beer making waves? A retailer who wants to stay on top of demand should make sure to read all the latest magazines, forums and blogs on their chosen speciality. 

Holidays are always busy times for alcoholic beverage retailers, so make sure you have enough stock to cover your customer’s needs. Christmas and New Year’s Eve are probably the biggest holidays that sellers of alcoholic beverages will need to cater for. However, other celebrations should also be noted. Is Mother’s Day coming up? Better make sure you have a good amount of champagne and wine on hand! Is there a major football game or horse race on? Try and anticipate what holidays and events will cause customer demand to rise and make sure you have the inventory to cover it. 

What are the regulations surrounding alcohol sales in the UK?

Any business that wishes to sell alcohol in the UK must first obtain a licence to do so from the local authorities. This is a simple matter of completing an application form and paying a small fee. A business that buys from wholesalers and then sells to the public must make sure the wholesaler they use has approval from HMRC under the Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme (AWRS). To do so, check the wholesaler’s Unique Registration Number (URN) on the HMRC database. 

The sale of alcohol in the UK is governed by the Licensing Act 2003. This Act outlines the opening hours allowed for any business selling alcohol and other such regulations, such as, for example, the prohibition of selling alcohol to anyone who is under the age of 18. 

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What are the advantages and disadvantages of different wholesale suppliers?

To make sure your business is competitive, it is best to buy your products from an alcoholic beverage wholesaler. The type of wholesaler you choose once again depends on the nature of your business. A wine store can approach winemakers directly or may work with an agent representing many different vineyards. A speciality liquor store or a craft beer outlet may operate in the same fashion. A general off-licence that requires a broad selection of products will opt for a drinks wholesaler that can provide bulk quantities of popular beverages.

Buying from an alcoholic beverage wholesaler located in the UK will ensure you get fast delivery and will avoid you having to pay any extra tax or having to declare your purchases to HMRC. While an overseas wholesaler may offer better prices, there is a raft of bureaucracy associated with purchasing from a wholesaler not located in the UK. However, since many alcohol beverage retailers source their products from outside of the UK (French wines, once again as an example), dealing with these complexities and extra costs is unavoidable. 

With some creative thinking, retailers can develop strong international networks of suppliers. Ankorstore is an online marketplace dedicated to helping businesses find distributors for their products. The Ankorstore platform offers retailers a reliable and simple way of accessing high-quality products from suppliers throughout the EU. 

Can I buy alcoholic beverages wholesale from abroad?

Yes, but you will need to be aware of the process surrounding purchases from wholesalers not located in the UK. HMRC has strict laws and regulations surrounding importing alcoholic goods. Retailers need to be aware of these regulations and make sure that they stay on the right side of the law.

Wines and spirits with an alcohol content above 12% are subject to excise duty. Paperwork must be completed by the buyer if they wish to purchase these types of goods. Excise duty can be up to 40% of the cost of the products. VAT and Customs Duty charges may also be applicable. It should be noted that in some cases, Ankorstore can reimburse these fees. So if you are importing alcoholic beverages, you may wish to investigate the Ankorstore marketplace.

It is advisable that any retailer who sources their goods from a wholesaler not located in the UK speaks with HMRC first to establish what charges may apply and what paperwork you will have to complete. 

How can you pay your wholesale alcoholic beverage suppliers?

The majority of alcoholic beverage wholesalers will accept most common forms of payment, including cash, bank transfers, credit cards, debit cards, and PayPal payments. Some may even be open to accepting cryptocurrencies.  

How to manage VAT with wholesale alcoholic beverage suppliers

All UK businesses that earn more than £85,000 must be registered for VAT. The VAT that applies to any goods you buy for your business can be claimed back via your tax return. It is worth bearing in mind, however, that alcoholic beverage wholesalers located outside the EU or the UK will not charge VAT, so the buyer will have to make sure to report this in their tax return. Essentially, you will be paying and claiming back VAT at the same time. 

Writing purchase orders for alcoholic beverage wholesalers

Purchase orders can be a good way of ensuring that you are guaranteed a certain amount of stock that will be delivered on a certain date each month. Because the orders are usually done in bulk, purchase orders are common practice between alcoholic beverage wholesalers and retailers.  

By using the Ankorstore e-commerce marketplace, however, retailers can establish relationships with suppliers and obtain goods on a regular basis without the need for purchase orders. 

Common payment terms for alcoholic beverage wholesalers

Payment terms for an alcoholic beverage wholesaler range from between 30, 60 or 90 days after shipping. In many cases, a retailer can negotiate favourable terms from a wholesaler.

If you are setting up an alcoholic beverage business, then take a look at the Ankorstart programme from Ankorstore. Ankorstart is a non-binding, totally free programme dedicated to helping entrepreneurs develop sustainable, viable businesses. 

How to make contact with alcoholic beverage wholesalers

There are many avenues to find alcoholic beverage wholesalers. Many businesses have online stores and can be contacted via email or an online contact form. Some retailers find their wholesalers via business contacts or get recommendations from customers. The practice of directly approaching a manufacturer and arranging a wholesale deal with them is especially common in the alcoholic beverage industry. 

Where to find help with locating alcoholic beverage wholesalers

If you are a new retailer setting up a business selling alcoholic beverages, you can find support, guidance and advice by signing up for the Ankorstart programme from Ankorstore. The Ankorstart programme is specifically designed to assist new entrepreneurs in launching their businesses. It is totally free, non-binding and can give you the edge you need to establish yourself and your new business. Take a look at the Ankorstart programme today!


Where can I find alcoholic beverage wholesalers?

Many alcoholic beverage wholesalers that cater to UK customers have websites where you can place orders with them directly. Speciality retailers, like wine stores, may wish to contact manufacturers directly. 

Can I buy wholesale alcoholic beverages from outside the UK?

Yes, you can. However, there may be taxes, duties and paperwork associated with the purchase. Contact HMRC for advice and guidance. 

Should I have more than one alcoholic beverages wholesaler?

It is always a good idea to diversify your suppliers. That way, if one supplier cannot meet your order you will be able to source stock from another wholesaler.

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