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Online Wine Merchants - A threat to local wine merchants ?


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Local independent wine shops offer convenience, locations are carefully chosen to make it’s easy to pop in and pickup a couple of bottles in the passing, on the spur of the moment, or when stocks are unexpectedly low. They should also be great source of advice, the staff in any decent merchant will, with a bit of questioning on our preferences and requirements, be able to guide us toward something interesting which we are likely to enjoy and which we may not have tried had their advice been unavailable. Any quality merchant is also likely to use tastings to educate their customers and help them to broaden their wine drinking horizons by reducing the risks of buying something allow the consumer to try something before buying.

Wine has been sold online since the inception of e-commerce in the late 1990s and now many wine merchants have an online presence the majority offering full e-commerce sites, but merchants generally report that their online sales represent only a tiny fraction of their annual turnover. Why is more wine not sold via the online presence of our high street wine merchants? Many factors are involved but I suggest a couple is:

(a) Buying an unknown wine online without the expert help and guidance afforded by the high street shop represents a bigger risk to the customer so many online purchases are for wines the consumer already knows, but these purchases are often in case quantities which becomes inconvenient in a high street location, distant from parking.

(b) The consumer who has made a decision to buy a known wine will balance a number of factors before deciding where to place the order. Many will order from the local merchant who introduced them to the wine but others will decide to use the tools available online to research alternative sources based on price and convenience of delivery (to a work address ?).

During the late Summer of 2011 Harpers, a trade magazine for the wine and spirits industry in the UK, ran a report of a seminar given by a prominent London wine merchant (founded in 2006) outlining concerns that many importers/distributors to the UK wine trade were “leaking" supplies of wines destined for the UK's on-trade and independent retailer sector to national multiple retail chains, private customers and in particular a specific online-only wine merchant (founded in 2004). It was argued that this leakage would “damage” the independent retail sector, presumably by competing with high street retailers on price, and that the independent sector should “stand together” and “deal with it”. To be successful a local wine merchant must take advantage of their physical presence in the high street, continue to educate your customer, the personal relationship that can be established will be rewarded with loyalty. The high street location can be much more than a place to simply buy wine online .


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