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Why grocery stores love wine

grocery store wine salesBecause they sell so much of it — and a lot more than most of us realize. Hence the reason for the Great Wall of Wine.

Wine was the seventh biggest category by dollar amount for supermarkets in the 52 weeks ending June 15, recording $6.9 billion in sales. That’s up 3.7 percent from the same period a year ago, and works out to an average of $9.27 a bottle. The figures come from a study by the IRI marketing consultancy and published in the Supermarket News trade magazine.

How impressive are those numbers?

• They don’t include wine sales in New York or Pennsylvania, two huge markets that don’t allow supermarkets to sell wine. Yet, even without those two states, grocers account for about 20 percent of U.S. wine sales.

• They don’t include wine sales at Target, Walmart, and Costco. Throw those in, and that 20 percent total should increase by more than a few points.

• Wine was bigger than a host of established items, including cereal, coffee, bottled water, cookies, and soup. Some of that was because wine is more expensive; we bought three times more cans of soup than bottles of wine. Even so, it’s an impressive total, given the restrictions on wine sales. In Texas, for example, we can buy soup as long as the store is open, but we can’t buy wine on Sunday until noon.

• Wine’s growth was bigger than soft drinks, which lost 3.9 percent, as well as cereal (down 4.3 percent), ice cream (down 0.3 percent), frozen pizza (unchanged), and toilet paper (-0.2 percent). I can’t even pretend to make sense of that. Since when did we need wine more than toilet paper?

These numbers, more than anything else, explain why there is so much opposition to supermarket wine sales in the 19 states where it’s still prohibited. We’re not buying jug wine at the grocery store. That $9 average price means we’re buying many of the same wines we’d buy at wine shops and liquor stores, and small retailers don’t want the competition.

The irony is that, as has been noted on the blog, small retailers may prosper competing with grocers, since they offer something supermarkets can’t — someone to answer questions. The Great Wall of Wine has nothing to do with service.

Photo courtesy of Houston Press food blog, using a Creative Commons license

4 Responses to Why grocery stores love wine

  1. Very occasionally I get a nice surprise. For example, there are three Kroger stores around my home. All have considerable shelf space committed to wine. The dept manager of the oldest store had achieved WSET Level 3 last year at The Texas Wine School. He was certainly knowledgeable, and often accessible on the floor. His store was sensibly merchandised and had a great selection. Sadly, his success was noted and he was elevated to be manager of wines over a group of stores. Thus he is now less accessible.

  2. rdietz3d@verizon.net' Ray Dietz says:

    The web site ThumbsupWine.com concentrates on reviewing wines that are available from supermarkets and big box stores so shoppers can get some guidance as to what wines they might enjoy. Almost as good as being able to talk to a knowledgeable person in a wine shop.

    I reside in Pa and fortunately, many of the wines that the supermarkets sell are also available in the Pa. Wine & Spirits system.

    Unfortunately, I’ve found, in general, that although they are helpful in any way that they can be the staff at the Wine & Spirits stores are not tremendously knowledgeable about wine so I have been using the Thumbsup reviews to assist me in buying wines that I like and it’s been working out very well for me.

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