“The challenge for the future? Digitalization of wine stores. While also continuing to ensure expertise, services and information to explain not only a bottle but also the art, history, culture, agro-food and professionalism that interact with wine." These ideas come from Andrea Terraneo, President of Vinarius, the circuit of wine shops that by now boasts more than 110 members in Italy and abroad - ranging from Europe to the United States and Australia.
Vinarius - currently celebrating the milestone of its first 40 years - will attend Vinitaly Special Edition 17-19 October with an in-depth conference discussing the future of wine bars. During the event at Veronafiere, it will also be a full-scale "point of attraction for colleagues and wine-makers by facilitating the exchange of information and occasions for business, training and connection", in accordance with the initial mission of Vinarius, which is precisely "training and preparation of associates and reaching consumers through wine stores in order to indirectly train them about quality wine and responsible drinking".
The 15-month lockdown did not affect the sector as a whole in the same way. “Wine stores serving wine by the glass suffered all the consequences that hit catering, with falls in turnover linked to events and zone colours in the Regions," Terraneo explained. “On the other hand, stores that continued to work through deliveries/takeaways in 2020 posted lower falls in turnover compared to the previous year and, in some cases, managed to keep the accounts balanced or even better than before; as for the first six months of 2021, the signals we have seen are very positive."
Nonetheless, the pandemic has changed the purchasing dynamics of trade operators. “If we were to define the period before the pandemic as normal," said the number one at Vinarius, "Covid gave rise to different needs, perhaps involving smaller but more frequent orders. Even average expenditure decreased in certain periods, and then resumed again. Our mission is to stay on the market by meeting the needs of our customers."
Covid has also encouraged the digitalization of the sector (as seen with the boom in online sales), which will remain one of the great challenges for the future. And it must be faced in the same way as all the other changes experienced in the past: “With courage and fearlessly".
“Reacting to the changes taking place and responding to the needs of customers who rely on us for the expertise we are able to ensure is part of the DNA of wine stores," Terraneo pointed out. An initial and extremely far-reaching change took place in the 1980-90s with the entry of large-scale retail distribution into the wine sector; in the early 2000s, it seemed that wine stores were at risk given the advent of the first theme-based websites. Yet we have always been on hand and Vinarius is still alive and 40 years old. We are delighted because we need great challenges in order to react to market changes and everything else, whether digital or physical, that increases awareness of quality wine among end consumers: This is fundamental for us because it helps educate our consumers increasingly to appreciate quality."
And then, to be honest, there is a huge difference between websites and e-commerce portals and wine stores. “Having a broad selection of labels on a website is easy but having a selection of vintages, on the other hand, is much more complicated," said Terraneo. And this is where our work comes in by selecting the best wines and vintages to be stocked and offered to consumers over time."
“Just in time” is another strong point of the wine store system. It is an additional service that has proven to be very successful. Terraneo illustrates the concept with a practical example: “On Friday and Saturday evenings, many customers come in looking for a bottle of wine because they have been invited to dinner or have to make a quick gift. Many wine store owners have installed refrigerators in order to sell wines at the right temperature even for last minute purchases, or have ensured last-minute deliveries in the area around the store in order to provide a service that was highly appreciated during the lockdown, so much so that home deliveries helped wine stores stay afloat."
We have no fear, therefore, over the future of the sector, provided that wine stores continue to ensure a qualified and professional service, perhaps even on a digital platform at the service of the wine store system.