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Matthew Clark ramps up wine training for sales teams

Published:  13 May, 2014

Matthew Clark is bumping up its wine training for its sales team as it looks to boost its wine sales and credentials.

Ian Smith, commercial director for Matthew Clark, told that the sales team was also looking at why some of its customers were not buying their wine from the supplier.

"We trade with about 20,000 customers in total, but quite a few aren't taking all or some of their wines from us. We're asking our sales team to grow that and find out why," Smith said.

As for new customers, Smith said April had been one of its "best ever months" for new business. "We're getting the message across," he added.

Matthew Clark sells 5 million cases of wine per year, with wine accounting for 32% of its total sales by value.

The group has also introduced a new level of wine "immersion" training to its sales team this year, which is much more intensive than it has ever been before for the sales team. Smith said: "We recognise that we need that given how our customers now interact with us."

The group has recently revamped its portfolio and taken on more boutique producers in an effort to broaden its appeal outside of the mainstream. It has seen wine sales increase by 7% since making the changes.

"We're having a reasonable time in wine, and getting a bit of traction in encouraging some of the retailers to try better wines rather than just buy the lowest wines available.

"We've seen that in Spain, a lot of our more expensive Spanish wines are in good growth - which goes against the market where Cava is pulling the rest of the category down.

Smith said that while the large pub and restaurant groups had recognise Matthew Clark's strength in wine as well as beer, spirits and soft drinks, smaller outlets were just learning of the breadth of its offer.

He said the on-trade offers greater opportunities for selling up than the off-trade, as they can hand sell and make recommendations to "spend an extra £1 and get something much better".

"It does differentiate the on-trade from supermarkets where there isn't such a high profile on hand-selling and educating customers," he added.

He said the on trade should "seize on" this opportunity, especially given it can offer a range of "not just one Chardonnay". He said customers could sample better wines than they could get at home as "supermarkets are moving more to entry-point wines".

As for consumer confidence in the eating out sector, Smith said that it was "coming back, you see the first shoots of it", despite the slightly "worrying trend" of volumes receding a little while spend is increasing. He said Matthew Clark has had a good start to the year, with "strong like for like sales" in the first two months.

Having taken on three Spanish agencies in the past year, the group is focused on Spain and has tasked wine buyer Simon Jerrome to add further Spanish lines to the list. New Zealand is experiencing good growth, while Prosecco continues to go "very well".