Richard Hemming: Promote with imagination, not discounts

Product, price, place and promotion: the four Ps of marketing. It may be corporate jargon, but it works. Sadly, promotion and price are all too often considered one and the same thing within wine retail.

This slavish reliance on discounting not only undermines the value of wine, it debases the potential of non-price promotion.

Every off-licence has the opportunity to promote wine without always resorting to price cuts – indeed, many wine shops are doing so already. But if there was a concerted effort to sell wine based on attributes other than ostensible savings, the industry could demonstrate to itself that price needn’t be the only way to sell wine.

I’ve mentioned some ideas here before but this time, I want to look more closely at presentation.

Shelf-ish layout

The default layout for wine shops is rows of bottles from floor to ceiling. That maximises space and satisfies logical order, like in a library ... but it also makes it about as exciting as shopping in a library.

Losing shelf space to allow for more innovative displays is no sacrifice. Newcomer Wines in Shoreditch’s trendy Boxpark development uses touchscreen displays to encourage customers to engage with the stories behind their wines. Other shops use wine dispensing technology in lieu of conventional shelving.

Also, try rethinking your counter area. Most shops tend to crowd the till space with whatever doesn’t fit anywhere else – magazines, corkscrews, accessories, flyers. Instead, think of it as a space to promote one simple, strong message – Drink More Champagne, Brand New Arrival, or whatever.

Cultural connections

It’s worth thinking about who your customers are. Over the past three months, retailers have been using the summer of sport to promote sales, justified by sport’s (assumed) mass appeal. Off-licences could easily exploit this by highlighting wines with a sporting connection – there are loads of tie-ins, from sporting winemakers (Ian Botham, Ernie Els) to sponsors (Mumm Champagne, Hardys) – or even the Marathon du Médoc.

There are plenty of marketing opportunities beyond sport too. How about a book theme – wine referenced in recent bestsellers, for example, or famous wines from classic literature. The Oxford Companion has an entry on exactly that. Alternatively, history is littered with vinous connections: port and the Methuen treaty, Burgundy and medieval monasticism.

Music is full of references to wines, from lyrics mentioning Moscato to wineries that pipe music into the barrel halls. Choose something that fits your typical customer profile – and if all else fails, remember that anything with a local tie-in will guarantee relevance.

Promoting a handful of wines using an eye-catching, imaginative subject offers your customers exactly the kind of experience that is far more memorable than discounting. And that’s one important way that wine retailers can do something to differentiate themselves from the supermarkets.

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