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Waitrose to launch small parcel wine series

Waitrose Cellar is set to launch its own “umbrella” series of small parcel wines.

The retailer is working with an Australian winemaker on a regular series of small parcel wines that it will launch online under one ‘umbrella’ label. It will start with a Christmas parcel, Waitrose Cellar buyer Xenia Irwin MW told the drinks business, and will see additions to the series launched once or twice a year.

Although small parcels were not big volume drivers, they help generate consumer interest and helped improve conversion rates, Irwin said. The creation of a regular series of parcels under an umbrella brand would encourage consumers to come back for the next parcel. “You have to think longer term to have a label,” she said.

Waitrose Cellar has seen year-on-year growth of 21%, Irwin said, and now comprises around 200 wines exclusive to its online offer, with around 60 new lines added over the past year.

But 2016 is set to be a” year of consolidation” after establishing Waitrose Cellar’s point of difference from its wines in store. “2015 was all about exploration and growth,” she said. “We looked at the year as one piece, mirroring the regional focus in store in terms of promotional space, and bringing in extra ranges to extend the region online. “

Irwin ruled out the creation of a wine forum for its wine consumers in the medium term partly due to commitments arising from the retailer’s recent deal with The Telegraph to run its wine subscription service. Launched earlier this month as a co-branded partnership, the launch of the new Telegraph Wine from Waitrose site had taken “a huge amount of resources” she said, but early indications of sales had been good.

“It’s long been an ambition to have a partnership, we’ve very keen as there is a strong overlap of our customer base,” she said. “There was a strong introductory offer and it offers access to promotions and mixed cases that Telegraph readers didn’t have before.”

The new deal launched ten different subscription plans, as well as offering access to Waitrose Cellar and an en primeur campaign for Telegraph readers for the first time. However the new Telegraph Wine from Waitrose site will diverge from Waitrose Cellar “very quickly”, Irwin added.

“In the launch phase, it’s been about getting it out there, but there will be a lot of focus on mixed cases and we’ve done a lot on a parcel basis.”

Sparkling wine sales

The retailer also reported a boost in its sparkling wines sales since reviewing the sparkling wine range in June. As part of the process, it stripped out a number of New World sparklers to boost its range of Proseccos and Cavas. New wines include Codorniu Vintage 2013, San Leon Prosecco Brut, and Hattingley Valley Classic Cuvee.

The fixture was also resegmented on shelf, – blocking the range vertically as opposed to horizontally – to make it easier for Waitrose to highlight its more popular own label lines as well as making it easier for consumers to compare different skus, Ken Mackay MW, buying manager wine (Champagne) said.

“We are seeing the fruits of that now,” he said. “Making the fixtures more customer friendly and shoppable makes a big difference.”

Champagne sales are up 18% year to date, he said, bucking the trend of the wider market and largely driven by own label. “The split has ask moved, it is more own label than branded.”


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