The Days of Wine and C-Stores
Your friendly, neighborhood c-store may be the purveyor of fine wines you never knew you had.
“A bottle of white, a bottle of red
Perhaps a bottle of rose instead”
— Billy Joel
Count Dracula may have said, “I don’t drink . . . wine,” but who’s going to listen to him? He’s a vampire!
Okay, maybe we’re influenced by the fact that SSCS is near some primo wine country, like the high profile, venerable Napa Valley and the less known but rapidly growing (and very close to us!) Paso Robles Wine Country. But there’s no mistaking Americans love wine. We each, on average, drank 3.18 gallons of it in 2021. That’s 1.1 billion gallons total!
Demand doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, and though wine has been part of the c-store merchandising mix for as long as we can remember, it hasn’t been emphasized much and there’s been little in the way of product curation. However, a general rise in alcohol sales, relaxed restrictions in key states that allow stores to carry wine, and a more adventurous approach to merchandising in general has created a renewed awareness of the profit potential of finer wines and champagnes.
“The key to fine wine retailing is getting to know your customers, asking them questions about their preferences, and knowing your products,” says a marketing representative from a local winery. “It’s not that far out of the orbit of what good convenience stores are doing anyway.”
Convenience Store News suggests a mix of wines along different pricing tiers to maximize profitability—starting with inexpensive labels at the lower end, moving up through to bottles that retail for more than $50.00.
Of course there’s many ways to approach the opportunity. Here’s a few ways the industry is gaining visibility and creating excitement for the upscale vintages they’ve chosen to carry.
- Rutter’s has a tradition of sponsoring wine and food pairing events at several locations.
- This popular convenience store has a wide variety of its own private label premium wines.
- Here’s a profile of Mendez Fuel in Miami which has made fine wines a retail asset for years.
- It’s no longer a functional c-store but this gas station tasting room looks cool.
- No story on c-stores and alcohol would be complete without a quick trip to Seoul, South Korea, where downtown c-stores are the weekend destination for nighttime socializing. There you’ll be able to pick up a $35,000 bottle at your local GS25, just in case you need to impress your date.
The success of expensive wines and champagnes is all market driven of course; as our wine expert mentioned above, you have to understand who you’re selling to and what they want. But once you perform due diligence and take the plunge, you certainly will want to know how these new products are performing for you.
SSCS’ Computerized Daily Book back office software can make that task a lot faster and easier, removing much of the uncertainty from trying new things. Track sales amounts, keep an eye on margins, and identify the effectiveness of the promotions you run on new products like champagne in the week leading up to New Year’s. If you’re interested in the idea of getting a handle on untested products before they can really cost you, feel free to give us a call at 1-800-972-7727 for more details. We look forward to it!