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Waitrose to make beers, wines and spirits 'destination' departments

Published:  08 October, 2014

Waitrose is making its drinks department more of a destination by upping the ante on its in-store dining plans - with plans to ramp up grazing options by adding steak bars and by serving fresh beer.

Pierpaolo Petrassi MW, Waitrose's head of beers, wines and spirits told that the move is "all about making our BWS departments that bit more of a destination".

Pierpaolo Petrassi MWWaitrose plans to ramp up its wine offeringPierpaolo Petrassi MW, head of BWS, said it is planning to ramp up its in-store dining options to turn wine into more of a destination, as well as offering next day click and collect service on wine.

The retailer is also extending its click and collect service to wine, through its Waitrose Cellar site.

"In the partnership, we have to open our stores with our own cash, so we open shops where we know there's a good demographic and we will make money. So opportunities [for adding more dining concepts] have been limited, but we will be opening nine or 10 by next January. We're opening a big one in Salisbury which will have a full grazing menu, steak bar and serve fresh beer."

He said adding fresh beer to the mix had been "quite hard to do", but that Waitrose was "quietly confident it will be a hit".

The group's standalone wine retail website Waitrose Cellar is now around six months old, and Petrassi said it has so far "exceeded expectations".

"We don't always do things as quickly as other retailers, but once we are empowered we are a formidable force."

It is launching click and collect for wine within the next two weeks, through Waitrose Cellar, which will allow customers to place an order by 7pm and have it delivered to a store near them the next day. "It means you can access the total range [of 1,500 wines] no matter where you are."

"It's hugely exciting - it's the classic bane of any retailer - that you can't fit the whole range in." On launch back in May it had 150 winemaker videos, but it has now boosted that number in an effort to "drive inspiration".

Pierpaolo Petrassi MW, head of BWS, said it is planning to ramp up its in-store dining options to turn wine into more of a destination, as well as offering next day click and collect service on wine.

South African and Italian focus

Petrassi also said the retailer has "significantly revamped" both its South African and Italian selections, adding around 15 wines, or one third of the range. Petrassi said most of the new wines were supplier and tertiary brands, rather than own-label. He said it has around 60 to 70 wines in its own label range, of "relatively modest" size compared to our competitors.

"We have a really strong French franchise, with Bordeaux and the Rhone as our heartland. We've brought in a big swathe of 'classic' France, reminding our customers of what's possible out of these areas."


It is also boosting its English wine selection. "We stock more than our competitors and work very closely with all the wineries in most cases. You've got to be really good at working with a fledgling industry," Petrassi said. He said its hard work was paying off and that wineries now give it "first dibs" on new releases.

Fortified wines are still a major part of its offer, Petrassi said. "We take a slightly counter-commercial view," whereas other retailers might say, sales don't justify the space, Waitrose can dedicate additional space to fortified. "We have a fundamental belief" in fortified wines, he said.

Petrassi said Waitrose's bestselling wine categories were Prosecco, both on and off-promotion; Pinot Grigio - which it is not "sentimental" over but "proud of"; South Africa, which also works well given the current exchange rate.

"Austria has been in double digit growth for the past five years. We absolutely believe in its success and love its varieties. You've got to overinvest to bring that to fruition."