In my travels and lectures I am often asked, and by often I mean many times a day, who I feel the best retailer in US is, and should distributor X and supplier Y sell their wines/ spirits/crafts there?
I would pay attention wineries, suppliers, and distributors. There is going to be a public backlash when the independent grocer and wine retailers continue to suffer from attrition. US consumers want choice, and that choice is being taken away as distributors cut sales forces and focus on high revenue stores. That prom queen focus will eventually kill the small retailer as they will not have access to goods, pricing, and new releases.
Drum roll please… in my opinion, the best retailer of wine in America is Trader Joe’s.
Lets look at the off premise channel as a whole. There are 140,000 independent retailers in America and roughly 2000 combined chain stores. You can then add grocery on top of that segmentation. Industry experts like me often further classify the channels into regional, local, chain, and so on. The reality is that from a winery and distributor perspective; a bottle sold is a bottle sold, and from a consumer perspective, since 8/10 bottles in America sold are “branded” wines, the place of purchase is irrelevant given other equal factors.
My retailer of the year from a consumer perspective is Trader Joe’s. TJ’s has managed to create a localized experience despite its mass. The non-warehouse store format, the kitchen shirts, and shelf tags all add to the consumer having a hyper local shopper experience.
From a wine/spirit and craft beer experience, it feels like a local liquor and wine shop. That is a huge accomplishment. Looking at the items carried, the pricing, and the selection of craft brews, all look local and hyper local, and for the consumer it implies that TJ’s is your Trader Joe’s.
When looking at the consolidation of the supply chain and the pending death of the independent liquor store, you can point to TJ’s as a model that is truly a big box, chain retailer in an independent retail footprint. All this is done while remaining price competitive, local in appeal, and providing knowledge via shelf talkers and their on site beer and wine people.
Kudos to you TJ’s, I commend your merchandising plan. If I were a supplier or distributor, I would look to TJ’s to sell my goods, as they will be absolved from the big box backlash that will come in the next few years.