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And the best wine retailer in America is?

expert-editorialIn 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.

Brian RosenExpert Editorial
by Brian RosenRosen Retail Method

Rosen Retail for Alcohol Beverage offers support to retailers and suppliers alike, having created Supplier Boot Camp and Retailer Boot Camp and other award-winning programs that increase gross margin for retailers and cases sold for suppliers. Brian Rosen can be reached at brian@briandrosen.com or twitter @rosenretail.

1 Comment on "And the best wine retailer in America is?"

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  1. Tim Teichgraeber says:

    This article is so shamefully unsubstantiated that I’m embarrassed to even respond to it but I guess I feel obligated. I managed a wine shop for ten years and have been a wine writer and critic for twenty.

    As a veteran wine buyer and wine critic, I can testify that TJ’s wine selection is a minefield. Fraught with brett-infested reds and hopelessly expired white wines. Yeah, there are some decent wines in there, but you’re on your own.

    You will never find anyone qualified to help you pick a wine at Trader Joe’s, nor at Bevmo. If you want good wine, find a good local wine shop (they’re all over the place) and tell them what you like. Stop looking to save $1 at some big box vendor like Trader Joe’s that is essentially a clearing house for discounted crap that can’t make it in the mainstream market.

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