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Lidl hints at plans for online wine shop

UK supermarket Lidl has not ruled out launching an online wine shop, reporting wine sales to be up 38% since it introduced a premium range last year.

Ben Hulme, head of beer, wine and spirits at Lidl UK

Speaking to the drinks business at the supermarket’s Christmas showcase yesterday, Ben Hulme, Lidl UK’s head of beer, wine and spirits, said he had been pushing the idea and confirmed the company was considering such a move, but that a decision was yet to be made.

“The growth in wine is there to be seen and I would love to do it, however I don’t have the full picture in terms of the full complexity of what that would mean for the business”, said Hulme. “I have been pushing it and would like to do it but I don’t think it’s going to happen immediately. At some point the heads will make a decision as to whether it makes sense – they haven’t said yes or no. We are aware that online is a big category. There needs to be a lot of thought put into it. What we are not going to so is put up a half thought out online shop. If we do it we will consider it properly and do it properly.”

According to a study by Bordeaux’s Kedge Business School presented at Vinexpo last month, online wine sales are expected to rise considerably in the coming years, led by Britain and China. Online wine sales are currently around 600% higher than in 2006, contributing $6 billion (£3.8bn) to the industry.

“One argument is that we are successful because we keep things simple”, added Hulme. “There is an argument that by adding an online we add complexity which is not the Lidl way, but we will have to see.”

Online plans aside, Lidl’s current target is spirits with plans to introduce four premium aged Scotch whiskies, an artisan gin and vodka this Christmas.

Presenting its range at its Christmas showcase yesterday Hulme said spirits was the “next frontier” for the supermarket, with its new whisky range featuring a 22-year-old blended Scotch, 28-year-old Speyside single malt and a 34-year-old blended Scotch.

“I feel like we have come a long way with wines and beer and we will continue to develop that, but spirits is an area that I am keen to develop”, said Hulme.

While final prices have not been confirmed the bottles are expected to retail at between £25 to £50 targeting the Christmas gift market. Plans for an artisan gin and vodka are also in play, set to be released under the supermarket’s Deluxe with Love range in partnership with its chef-in-residence Kevin Love.

Lidl’s foray into premium whisky follows the launch of its premium wine cellar concept in July last year, which features a rotating selection of 48 wines well above the price point of its 60-strong core portfolio.

Sales of wine are currently up 38% year on year with research firm Kantar Worldpanel placing Lidl’s market share at a record 3.9% for the 12 weeks ending 24 May, up from 3.6%.

“It was a bit of a risk and I put my own neck on the line, but I was absolutely convinced that this is what we should be doing and if we can make wines accessible to people then they would go for it”, said Hulme of the concept.

Keen to experiment with its range, Hulme revealed plans to introduce a Hungarian Tokaji and Canadian ice wine this year believing that the supermarket’s customers “have the appetite for it”.

“The initial aim was to introduce Lidl as a retailer of good value fine wines and the second aim was to establish our reputation for fine wines and I think we have started to get there”, said Hulme. “I don’t think we are completely there, I think there’s more we can do, but it’s given me the confidence to try out a few things. While we have have some success I don’t want to get to a situation where it gets stale. I want to keep doing different things. I want people to be excited about what we have to offer.”

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