Wine to 5: Rob Cooke, chief operating officer at Majestic Wine

Rob Cooke, chief operating officer at Majestic Wine

Rob oversees Majestic’s buying, e-commerce, marketing and on-trade businesses. He has played a key role in re-establishing the retailer’s reputation for selling interesting, unique, quality wines since its acquisition by Fortress Investment Group in December 2019. Rob joined Majestic in April 2019 from Tesco, where he was category director for beers, wines and spirits. He was also previously head of buying at Sainsbury’s. Rob was crowned Drinks Business Man of the Year in 2020 and his buying team has won more than 25 awards during the past four years. Rob was also named an executive board member of the Wine and Spirits Trade Association in April 2023. 

How did you get here?

I started my career at Deloitte before moving into retail with WHSmith. I then held a number of trading and buying roles at Woolworths in the early 2000s, then Sainsbury’s and Tesco. I spent a few years in general merchandise for Tesco in Central Europe and Turkey, before taking on key commercial roles in the core UK business. But wine was always my biggest passion, and taking on the role of beers, wines and spirits director at Tesco allowed me to live and breathe that passion every single day.

If you love wine in that way, the opportunity to join Majestic is one you simply can’t say ‘no’ to. I came here in April 2019, initially as buying and merchandising director. I was promoted to chief commercial officer the following year and became chief operating officer last October, with overall responsibility for trading, buying and merchandising, e-commerce and marketing, as well as our fast-growing B2B business, Majestic Commercial.

What’s the best thing about your job?

It sounds like a cliché, but it has to be the people. The passion and knowledge of the people I get to work with at Majestic is genuinely infectious – we have an incredibly talented and hard-working team that I am really proud to be a part of. But that passion for the product extends right through the supply chain. We get to work with the full spectrum of suppliers, from major Champagne houses in France, to small family producers around the world who have spent generations of time, money and hard work creating brilliant wines. Seeing that work first-hand, and having the opportunity to represent their brands and tell their stories to our customers in the UK, is a real privilege.

And the worst?

Probably the amount of time that we have to spend thinking about regulations and legal changes around imports, exports and duty, particularly post-Brexit. There’s more red tape around the wine industry than there’s ever been, and dealing with that means we spend less time adding value for our customers.

What’s the most common misconception about your job?

That I spend all of my time flying around the world tasting wine – that’s what everyone thinks I do! In reality, that probably takes up about a tenth of my time. I’d love to travel the world and meet our suppliers more often, because when it comes to wine, you never stop learning. There’s no substitute for the inspiration, ideas and creativity that comes from being with people in the place where their wines are produced.

What’s your greatest moment, professionally?

I’m hoping that’s still yet to come!

And your greatest mistake?

Not investing in a crystal ball that tells me what the weather will be like in three months’ time!

In all seriousness, I try not to characterise decisions as mistakes or successes. After all, everyone has a PhD in hindsight don’t they? What I try to do is look back at the decisions I make and ask myself: ‘Was that the best decision I could have made with the information I had available?’ If yes, great; if not, I try to understand why the decision wasn’t the best one and look to learn from it. Making mistakes is fine, making the same ones over and over is a problem. That’s the mindset I try to encourage among my teams because it’s super important that people aren’t afraid of…


Source : https://www.decanter.com/wine/wine-to-5-rob-cooke-chief-operating-officer-at-majestic-wine-516406/

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