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Merchandising wine by country is ‘lunacy’

Wine retailers need to move away from the “lunacy” of merchandising wines by country and embrace the more stylistic approaches employed in restaurants and online, a leading supplier has said.

Morrison's rolled out new fixtures in store last summerAndrew Bewes, managing director of Hallgarten Druitt, said the wine industry’s way of retailing by country of origin made ‘no sense’ and was an anomaly compared to other categories. But he added the consolidation and shrinking of retail ranges, along with developments of tighter on-trade wine lists – was likely to help prompt change.

“It is a complete lunacy to [arrange wines] by the place where they are made,” he told db. “There is a massive consolidation happening and it is controversial from both a consumer point of view and a stylistic point of view. But our way of retailing wine makes no sense.”

He admitted that there was an emotional element to purchasing by country and noted that consumers were reluctant to embrace change – as evidenced by Morrisons’ abandoning its innovative stylistic approach last summer and moving back to merchandising the category primality by country of origin, albeit with greater prominence of style indicators. The supermarket argued at the time that consumers feedback showed country of origin and grape variety were customers’ preferred way to navigate the section.

However Bewes said a half-way house was used at the moment, but the status quo would start to change as ranges narrowed across the wine aisles. It was also likely to follow the example of the on-trade, where London restaurants were leading the way, and also online retailing, where consumers had a greater say in how wines were presented to them.

“We are seeing seismic change [in the on-trade] from the situation twenty years ago and this is not having to list wine region by region and grape by grape but moving towards stylistic indicators. That may mean a reduction in choice at a grocery level – as wine lists in restaurants are coming down in terms of size – but it is easier for consumers and also for the front of house team, whether that is in a restaurant or at retail, as you can use various cues stylistically in a graduated wine list. There is a logic to the weights and styles of the wines,” he said.

“There is an inexorable move to retailing wine by style – and one of the great advantages of online retailing is that you can change the way the consumer looks at your range at the click of a button – it can be by country, grape, colour or style very easily.”

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