Grape expectations

Tips for selling vino in your grocery store

First came suds, now comes heritage, Last October, a little less than a year after stores were given permission to sell beer, the Ontario government granted 70 grocery stores a license to sell wine.

If beer sales are any indication, shoppers and retailers alike will be happy with the change. Ontario grocers received about 532,000 cases of beer from the LCBO between December 2015 and early August 2016, with net sales of around $24 million, according to government figures.

Just like their craft beer counterparts, many wineries, such as Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.-based Pillitteri Estates Winery, are keen to get their products on grocery shelves.

Pillitteri has already introduced the Harvest Collection—a line of six wines available exclusively at grocery. “Any opportunity to get our brand in the hands of consumers in our domestic market is a win for the winery,” says Pillitteri sales manager Courtney Dobias.

Jeff Doucette, general manager of Toronto research firm Field Agent Canada, says the addition of wine to grocery shelves presents both a challenge and an opportunity.

“It’s a much more complex category than beer, but it also opens up a lot of really interesting opportunities for total communication around a meal or wine pairings,” he says.

Here are some simple tactics retailers can use to uncork better wine sales:

Grocers granted licenses to sell wine range from discount chains like Food Basics to more upscale operations such as Longo’s and Loblaws—each of which attracts a different clientele.

“Those are two different types of shoppers,” says Doucette. “When I’m in a Farm Boy store I’m looking for something completely different from what I’m looking for in a No Frills. They need to be smart with their products.”

While a discount chain would likely find greater success with fast-moving brands such as Wolf Blass, Doucette says upscale chains would likely attract buyers for pricier wines.

Doucette says grocers should strive to offer an in-store experience which mimics that of the LCBO.

“Playing in that higher-end space as a food retailer, you’re going to have to emulate what people have come to expect when they go into an LCBO store. It’s almost a luxury experience.”

Doucette says wine’s rich history lends itself to storytelling, whether it’s about the history of the grape or how a particular wine can enhance a meal. A chain like Loblaws, for example, could offer a weekly “Galen’s Pick” accompanied by a story about why it was selected.

“It could be a simple story like, ‘I love this wine and I serve it a lot when we’re serving pasta,’” says Doucette. “It’s simple, but it’s the added touch that grocers can bring.”

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds