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Wine trade can learn from books, shower gels and strawberries

Published:  23 May, 2012

The wine trade could learn a lot from books, shower gels and strawberries - that's according to some of the industry's most senior figures, speaking today at Harpers' debate at LIWF.

Sainsbury's BWS manager Andy Phelps, said he often looks at the fruit category, which has the same "raw materials" but is "not so complicated" as wine. People pay more for British strawberries in season, and they can "enjoy" shopping the category. He added that the wine trade can learn lessons from how much consumers spend on health and beauty products, such as "what makes someone pay £20 for a tiny pot of moisturiser".

Waterstones was given as another example of how to merchandise a product in an interesting way, according to Ian Anderson, category insight manager at Accolade Wines. He said: "What would happen if wine was running Waterstones? Or vice versa? Instead of biography and fiction [categories] books would be merchandised by country of origin - where the author was born. How helpful would that be?".

Consultant and blogger Helen McGinn said the trade should watch cult children's TV programme Horrible Histories to learn how to make what is essentially "boring" facts seem humorous and memorable.

Christina Pickard said she believed that rather than organising wine by grape variety or region, retailers should focus on occasions like picnic or Christmas wines. She added that communicating with consumers in the USA allowed for a "bit more fun" than the UK.

"Engaging with consumers is a two-way discourse," said Joe Wadsack, wine writer and broadcaster, who championed social networking for enabling that conversation to take place.

Stephen Finch, owner of Fulham independent Vagabond Wines, said, "in the UK there's too much choice" when it comes to wine, adding that it was important that retailers slim down their offer and let consumers try before they buy.

For a full report on the debate, see our next issue of Harpers, June 1.