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Supermarket moves to sell wines by glass not a "slam dunk"

Published:  02 May, 2014

Moving more into hospitality with wine by the glass sales and casual dining is not a "slam dunk" route to success for the supermarkets.

Waitrose recently announced it will trial selling wines by the glass in deli-style dining areas in stores, while Tesco has ramped up casual dining options at its stores in a bid to boost poor performance. Marks & Spencer and Whole Foods Market already sell wines by the glass.

WaitroseWaitroseWaitrose is trialling sales of wine by the glass alongside deli-foods in 'grazing areas'.

Retail and casual dining expert Professor Chris Edger of Birmingham City University, formerly HR director at bar and restaurant group Mitchells & Butlers, told Harpers that changes weren't "a slam dunk" guaranteed to boost retailers' bottom lines.

"Their canteens in the past have been an amenity rather than a destination," Edger said. "It's quite a paradigm shift." He said switching away from retailing into food service offered better margins, and was "definitely going to be a trend". But he warned there are dangers, highlighting that food service customers have very different priorities to grocery shoppers who seek out availability and speed over service.

Retail expert and brand consultant Andrew Marsden said offering the chance to sample wines in store was "to be applauded" as it took risk out of purchase and allowed retailers to show their expertise. "It adds value, especially if done properly," he said. "It's a good thing, which makes for a more exciting in-venue experience, and feeds a different culture."

Tim Wilson, managing director of the Wilson Drinks Report, said: "The move by Waitrose to trial serving wine in a few stores is fascinating, coming on top of the Booths trial of by-the-glass machines. On the one hand, both of these initiatives offer the grocers new opportunities to provide some form of 'try before you buy' to their shoppers, whilst on the other hand, either could be a genuine threat to independent wine merchants who thrive on offering tasting and advice at point of purchase."