Southern Wine & Spirits of America has entered into a joint venture with Fedway Associates for the distribution of the brands handled by its Lauber Imports business.

In a deal announced this week, Fedway, the New Jersey wine and spirits distributor, will represent the interests of Lauber of New Jersey, a division of Lauber Imports. Fedway will also enter into a joint marketing programme with Southern for the other markets currently serviced by Lauber Imports.

Lauber was previously a wholly-owned division of Southern and the new Southern/Fedway agreement is expected to become effective on 1 October, according to the two companies.

Wayne Chaplin, president & COO of Southern, said: "This arrangement will allow Southern Wine & Spirits to focus on distribution and customer-focused activities in New York and Pennsylvania, while permitting Fedway to do the same in New Jersey."

Chaplin added: "As a result of Fedway's renowned in-market leadership and operational capabilities, we will be able to separate the local market execution from our overall strategic planning and supplier interface, an arrangement that in turn will enable both Southern and Fedway closer communication with its customers and supplier partners as well as achieve better brand execution in each of the three local markets."

Richard Leventhal, chairman & CEO of Fedway, said: "Our agreement with Southern through Lauber Imports will allow us to greatly enhance our position in the fine wine business throughout the state of New Jersey. A combination of Lauber's highly-trained and experienced sales team and our industry-leading supply chain management capabilities will help facilitate the growth of these great brands, bringing them ever closer to the retailers and restaurateurs across New Jersey."

Lauber of New Jersey will operate as a separate division of Fedway and report to Neil Barnett, president of Fedway.

Mark Lauber, president of Lauber Imports, said: "Since joining Southern, our brand owners, and the products that we are honoured to serve, have seen only success. This agreement - being the next evolution in the process - will strengthen our brands in all three markets. Working with Southern Wine & Spirits and Fedway, as I continue to lead our Lauber sales and marketing teams in all three states, I am confident our entire staff will bring our suppliers partners the best that New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have to offer. This strategic alliance will not only allow us to continue as we have in the past, but will also enhance account coverage, while simultaneously increasing service levels to all of our customers and suppliers in each of the three states."

A joint statement from the companies said: "This new alliance enables each of our operating divisions to achieve greater coverage of the respective markets than ever before. The Southern salespeople in New York and Pennsylvania, and the Fedway sales team in New Jersey, will supplement the Lauber sales effort by providing a level of coverage that goes deeper than the current Lauber account universe. This increased coverage will benefit both our customers and the Lauber suppliers and allow us to fully service these three key markets."