May 2013
uch has changed since the re-
cession ended, but one thing
hasn’t: Consumers are still
looking at prices and gauging
value in wine.
“If there is a reason to buy wine,
they’ll still do it,” says Melissa Surdyk,
whose family has owned the same-
named Minneapolis retailer since 1934.
“So you have to give them a reason to
buy it—a really good deal.”
So what’s a retailer to do—especially
since no one wants to go back to the bad
old days, when the only prices consumers
cared about were on the shelf, and they
waited to buy until those prices were
marked down? The answer, increasingly,
is to approach value and price with flex-
ibility, leaving shelf prices more or less
where they are but using tools like case
and six-pack discounts, one-day specials,
five-cent sales, loyalty clubs, wines of
the week, and even producer initatives.
“This is a huge dilemma for the indus-
try, and especially for wineries and pro-
ducers that had to cut prices,” says Paul
Tincknell of wine marketing consultancy
Tincknell & Tincknell in Healdsburg,
CA. “To be able to restore the profitabil-
ity that they need is a big challenge.”
That price still matters was evident
in a recent national survey of the fastest-
growing wine brands in the country. Al-
most all of the 27 wines on the list had
suggested retail prices of $10-$12 is the
sweet spot that consumers discovered
during the recession and now seem re-
luctant to abandon.
In addition, say retailers, they’re
more savvy about pricing and reluctant
to pay pre-recession prices, especially for
pricier wine. Says Scott Spencer of the
upscale Houston Wine Merchant: “My
customers have discovered wine-search-
er.com, and that means I have to use it,
too. I’m more price conscious than ever
before. In some ways, my competition is
just not local, but national.”
Many of those tools have proven
surprisingly effective, say retailers and
consultants, and especially if they’re
used in conjunction with traditional
sales and discounting.
“In addition to traditional POS and
print advertising, Banfi Vintners makes
significant investments to support our
brands with social media initiatives,
seasonal programs, and wine education
tools—all geared toward turning pur-
chasers into loyalists, and loyalists into
zealots,” says Cristina Mariani-May, co-
CEO of Banfi. “We’d love to see more re-
tailers take advantage of these resources
in creative ways to develop tailored pro-
motions that engage their customers.”
Among those new value tools that
have and are being used:
Six is the New 12
It what’s all that long ago, says Sean Oli-
ver, the operations manager at Hazel’s
Beverage World in Boulder, CO, that case
discounts were few and far between. Now,
he says, they’re almost old hat, and Hazel’s
has moved on to 10% discounts on mixed
six-packs for wines that aren’t on sale.
“They get to buy a variety of wines and
get a discount even though they aren’t
on sale,” he says. And they don’t have to
spring for a full 12-bottle case to feel like a
winner when they walk out the door.
Value’s New Toolbox
Retailers go beyond pricing to appeal to
tight-fisted consumers in tricky times
Surdyk’s in Minneapolis (left) uses one-day-only sales as a way of ensuring
that customers feel they are getting great deals. Hazel’s Beverage World in
Boulder, CO, offers discounts on mixed six-packs of wine, not just full cases.
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