Australia Decanted (Part Two): The Unplanned, Stealth Benefits For Wine Retailers

Food & Drink

Author’s Note: This post is the second part of our series that explores the market “lift” of an immersive trade program like Australia Decanted. The first post considered the impact on restaurants and wine bars, and here we consider the perspective of wine retailers.

An event like Australia Decanted is first and foremost about educating the trade – buyers from retailers and restaurants, that is, whose decision-making power positions them as the gatekeepers to wines available on their respective shelves and menus. When 100 or so top buyers from around the country spend three or four days and evenings together, however, connections are made and relationships are built organically over shared interests over wine styles and geographical proximity.

Those relationships are a “stealth benefit” for Wine Australia that they can’t have planned, exactly, but that has helped to move the needle nonetheless in terms of placements and sales.

Here’s a bi-coastal look at how that plays out, in two very different markets: Boston in the northeast, and Los Angeles, California.

Strength in Numbers

As a wine retailer in Boston, Eileen Elliott faces certain business challenges that are unique to her circumstances: quirky alcohol laws in the state of Massachusetts, for example (“dry townships” and no happy hours, anyone?), and limited availability of certain wines that she knows would appeal to her customers.

Overcoming these routine challenges requires creativity and chutzpah on the daily for the Director of Operations & Wine at the award-winning Social Wines shops, with locations in Cambridge and South Boston. Sometimes, however, overcoming the challenges simply requires strength in numbers.

“One of the most important reflections from the program was the momentum it started around sourcing Aussie wine that wasn’t available in Massachusetts as a retailer,” she Elliott said. “Many of the growers we met lacked representation in Massachusetts and the connections that were made helped make it possible to push more growers into our market.”

It’s one thing for one buyer to ask major distributors to source Australian wine for their shop. It’s something else for a set of buyers from one market to collectively ask for the wines. That’s a fairly simple calculation of scale but, even so, Elliott in some cases has had to push hard to get local distributors to deliver, something that reflects more on a bloated system than it does on demand and enthusiasm for the wines themselves.

Elliott and colleagues persisted, however, and placements of Australian wines have increased exponentially as a result; these include Cullen, Farr and Brash Higgins labels, and Social Wines also facilitated wines from Vanya Cullen (one of the guest winemakers at Australia Decanted) as part of a Women In Wine dinner, in collaboration with some of the best female sommeliers in the state.

The theme of collaboration at Social Wines is boosting sales and increasing satisfaction for guests who shop at Social Wines for the right mix of variety, uniqueness, value, and #BeMoreSocial conviviality of community, as the shop’s distinct hashtag indicates.

“Australia Decanted introduced a well-made range of wines that were exactly what our guests are interested in,” she said. “I just didn’t know those wines existed in Australia. Forgive me!”

Individual Buying Power

Daniel Herrera of Woodland Hills Wine Company in Woodland Hills, California, also commented on the connections established during the Decanted program and the relationships that were built. As the South Hemisphere Buyer for the Woodland Hills shop – a brick-and-mortar store since 1978 that has also been an early adopter of online sales – his ears and eyes were particularly open to the narratives that will help him move product.

“Wine stories are the best because they help to sell the wine,” Herrera said. “What better way to get the story firsthand than from the winemaker/owner themselves?”

Herrera said he was able to get more insight into some of the brands that he already supports, and new wines that he discovered as part of the Decanted program. Currently he has 35 SKUs at his store and is waiting for more.

“Overall it was great experience that brought a lot of wine people that love Aussie wines together,” Herrera said. “Good stories were told, good friends were made, good wines were consumed.”

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