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How Can Wine Suppliers Help UK Wine Retailers Drive More Sales


Tips for wine suppliers to become the most relevant and important to their retailer customers.

There is a quick and obvious answer to this question - sell them more wines their customers want to drink. But if only life was that simple.

It is, though, ultimately the biggest challenge and opportunity facing every wine supplier. How do they become even more relevant and important to their retailer customers? Particularly as the number of suppliers competing for their business is going up every year, with ever more specialist and focused operators coming into the market.

In fact, retailers have never had so much choice as to where they go to get their wines. They could decide to throw all their eggs into one basket and go with one of the major national distributors that can effectively supply them with all their drinks all from one source.

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They might decide to mix things up and have a couple of major players fighting it out to supply them with the best-priced wines for the majority of their range, and then cherry-pick specialist suppliers to add the cream, the wines that stand out, on top.

Or they could even decide to do things for themselves and cut out the traditional wine supplier and importer and go direct to winemakers and producers themselves. That way they can be assured of the price they want, as they can negotiate it themselves. They can also guarantee the wines are exclusive and won’t be on sale anywhere else in the area.

It really all comes down to what the wine retailer is looking to achieve and what their customers want to buy. There is no point seeking out quirky, unusual, artisan wine producers who handcraft and basket press every bottle of wine if they just want an easy-drinking wine to enjoy with the football for under £7 a go.

Which means most retailers will work with a number of suppliers that can all provide them with different kinds of wines, prices and services.

  • Hands-on support

With so many operators competing for their business, it means they can also be pretty demanding in terms of what they ask for. It is now pretty standard for any medium to the largely sized supplier to also provide hands-on support and training for a retailer’s frontline staff.

The majority of the biggest players, from Liberty Wines to Hallgarten Druitt, Enotria & Coe, Bibendum and Matthew Clark, will all have their own dedicated training teams that can tailor their programmes based on the individual needs of any particular retailer.

Increasingly that means offering bespoke online training that allows a distributor, like Bibendum, to work with the retailer to frame questions and information that are only relevant to a particular member of staff depending on their role within the business.

It means the training is focused on helping that retailer, in turn, help its staff to sell more of a particular set of wines. There is no need to teach a full wine syllabus, but to focus the information on the key criteria needed for those staff to do their particular job better.

It’s why the quality, depth and flexibility of a supplier’s training and development teams is arguably just as important as their wine range. If not more so.

Suppliers retailers meeting

  • Sourcing arms

It’s not just sales and training support that retailers need, but often suppliers are now acting as their third-party sourcing arms capable and willing to go out and find bespoke wine for a retailer’s private label offer.

There are now a number of businesses, like Off-Piste Wines, Copestick Murray, Kingsland Drinks and Lanchester Wines, that specialise in building up relationships with producers the world over who they can work with to blend specific wines for specific retailer partners. To do so means employing winemakers as well as wine buyers, specialists in blending and creating wines that meet a retailer’s brief.

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  • Preferred suppliers

We are now living in the world of the ‘preferred supplier’ who has so many facets to its business that it can effectively act as a one-stop-shop for a retailer to work with. From sourcing and blending the wine, to then develop a brand and design to go with it, to then training the retailer’s staff how to market and sell it.

To do so these suppliers need to be working closely with producers right around the world so that they can be quick and flexible enough to find alternative sources of wine in case currency shifts make that wine too expensive or there is a shortage after any particular harvest.

  • Consumer trends

These suppliers are also now investing in in-depth consumer sales data and shopping behaviour research so that they can spot and predict trends and then go to their retailer partners with ideas for wine and brands they believe will be the next big thing. If wine is going to take off being sold in a can, then a retailer will want their preferred supplier to be coming to it a year earlier with their own tailor-made cans ready to hit the shelves when needed.

  • Knowing your customer

All of the above is based on the assumption that the supplier has a good wine range to start with. For the best suppliers, it is given their range is going to be as cutting edge as possible in terms of quality, the point of difference and value for money. But they also need to know that range inside out and only offer the right wines to the right retailer. Which means, in turn knowing what your retailer is looking for. What their business strategy is and making sure you only offer them wines that will help them meet their target and goals.

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  • From A to B...

The other obvious answer to this question is making sure you get your wines to the retailer on time. Again easier said than done. Service levels are what a supplier will live and die by. It was, noticeable, for example, that the two new managing directors heading up Enotria & Coe’s on-trade division said they had joined the company from Bibendum, primarily because it is in charge of its own logistics and has its own vans to get its products to its customers in order and on time.

That’s ultimately what a good supplier is all about. 

About the Author

Richard Siddle

Richard Siddle is an award-winning business editor with over 25 years experience working across a number of fields including computing, FMCG, grocery and convenience retailing, travel and for the last 10 years wine and spirits. He spent much of that time as editor of Harpers Wine & Spirit where he was widely recognised for having turned one of the UK’s oldest publications into an agenda setting, must read for the drinks industry.