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Co-op overhauls wine offer with new in-store layout and lines

Published:  23 October, 2023

Co-op, the UK’s leading convenience chain, has made major changes to its wine aisle layouts in over 2,000 stores, following research and feedback from its members. It has also introduced five new wines, under the retailer’s Irresistible premium range. 

Joe Turner, Co-op commercial buying manager for wine & spirits states he is on a personal mission to make wine more accessible to consumers and in particular, its members. “The wine aisle can often be overwhelming for less confident wine drinkers, and we want to help them navigate the range more easily,” he said.   

The Co-op has over 4.5million active members and engages with them regularly across all sectors of its product range. The wine team puts a particular focus on listening to them and engaging. During the pandemic, and since, the team have held regular online Zoom tastings, an initiative led by buyer Sarah Benson, frequently involving not just the buyers, but winemakers. On average, around 900 members attend these educational tastings, and they purchase the wines, which will then be discussed.

“It was a no-brainer,” said Turner. “We saw a triple-digit uplift in sales once we started these”.

Currently, 45% of all Co-op wine sales are from Co-op members. 

The active wine members community is a rich forum for research and insights. It was used to find out what its customers wanted, plus what could be improved in terms of not just wine styles, but how they navigate a wine range. Results indicated that customer decisions began with price, then moved to grape variety, or style – the actual country of origin only appeared seventh in the decision-making tree. As a result of the feedback, the majority of stores have been remerchandised by style, led by the best-known grape varieties. Malbecs from different countries, for example, are sited together, next to Shiraz and other red wines of similar style.

“Our research showed us that this was the best route for cross-shopping between wine styles or varietals, and trading up,” Turner said.  

The new wine aisle layout is supported by clear category signage. In the first four weeks, like-for-like sales have increased by 5%. 

Included in the in-store reshuffle is Co-op’s Irresistible brand – a curated range of exciting discoveries, alongside carefully selected, established varietals and regions. Again, the Co-op went to its members for insights and advice. This indicated a need to bring some well-known styles to the Irresistible line-up. As a result, Cotes de Provence Rose, Pinot Grigio delle Venezie and Macon Villages have been added to the Irresistible mix.  

But, the premium own brand line also champions the lesser-known styles, including the newly released Irresistible Salice Salentino Riserva, as well as the already established and well-received Swiss Irresistible La Courbe Gamaret, and Irresistible Pais from Bio-Bio Chile, launched in February 2023. Thanks in part to the active promotion of these wines via the online members’ forum, these unusual wines have held their place, after the six-month trial period and stay in the range. 

The Co-op boasts a highly experienced team of buyers within their ranks, who have knowledge, experience, and role continuity, including Ben Cahill, Ed Robinson and Sarah Benson. Joe Turner commended them: “They are so passionate and proud of the products they develop and select – you can see that pride in the work they do, from the vineyard, right through to the bottle on the shelf.”  

The new Irresistible gold crest has also been given more prominence on the label, moving to the bottleneck, ensuring greater visibility, and has been rolled out to include Viognier VDP D’Oc 2022, Marsanne 2022, Gavi Broglia 2022 and Rioja Crianza 2020.  

The Co-op continues to champion Fairtrade, with the entire South African range now Fairtrade, and all own brand Argentine wines. Irresistible Casablanca Pinot Noir has also recently converted to 100% Fairtrade. Overall Fairtrade wines overperform across total wine, accounting for 12.5% of the range, but 15% of sales.