A knowledge of wines could set you apart from your supermarket rivals. Amy Lanning joined 13 Londis retailers on a wine course

Whoever heard of a supermarket able to advise its customers on their wine choice? But there's now a host of Londis and Budgens convenience store retailers across the country able to share their knowledge on different grape varieties, Old and New World regions, and food and wine matches.
Musgrave Budgens Londis has been holding the World of Wine training courses in
association with Constellation Europe since September last year, following a pilot with nine retailers in May 2006. Now 45 Budgens and Londis operators have completed the course, and a further 72 will attend this year.
The course is divided into three sections - what makes wines different, selling tools, and how to taste wine. The morning presentation from trainer and customer marketing manager for Constellation Wines, Claire Kercher, kicked off with a discussion of market trends, how wine is made, the flavour of wine, different grapes, wine styles, wine- producing countries, the importance of brands and the law and retailers' responsibilities.
Moving on to the selling tools, Kercher discussed food and wine matching, how in-store tastings can boost sales, wine faults such as corked wine, and customer care, which included handling complaints of a faulty wine.
In terms of in-store display, Kercher recommended grape variety or regional signage for the wine fixture, and the retailers were warned not to put promotional lines in the chiller. "Chillers offer an opportunity to get people to pay more," says Kercher. "Chillers by the till can act as an impulse sales driver. It costs the retailer more to sell chilled so you should charge more for it."
The course culminated with an afternoon wine tasting of four whites, four rosés and four reds, giving retailers the chance to test their new-found knowledge.
For Duncan Bell, manager of Chale Green Stores on the Isle of Wight, the course was time well spent. "It was very useful because I had limited knowledge of wine and now I can advise customers with a bit more confidence. If I do get stuck, I've got all the relevant information here so I can ask the customer to come back later and I'll be able to answer their question. The list of which wines to have with certain foods was useful and we have that on display in the shop.
"The course has just given me a little bit of knowledge that I can pass onto our customers."
Duncan adds: "We sell 120 different wines, which is a lot for a small shop, and we can't warrant more space for the section. We have thought about holding wine tastings since I went on the course, but it's not been the right time yet. We want to get some benefit from it, rather than just holding one for the sake of it. I would recommend the course to anyone. Some people knew a lot more about wine, but I think even they got something from it."
Jay Patel of VJ Enterprise, which operates a Londis store in Dagenham, Essex, also found the course invaluable. "I can now recommend a wine suitable for the dinner a customer is having. It's given me knowledge that I never had before - I knew nothing about wine or drinking wine because I'm teetotal. I did the course to increase trade and my wine sales are up 20%. I put that down to being able to sell better to my customers. The course also encouraged me to hold an in-store wine tasting, which was a great success."

Who's drinking what?

Consumers of wine fall into seven categories, according to Constellation Europe research into wine consumers who drink wine at least twice a month.
The Routiners: About 17% of regular wine drinkers are routiners, who drink about four times a week. These midlife consumers rarely spend over £5, but will drink on their own. They mostly live in the North East of England and Scotland, but are few and far between in London and East Anglia. They represent about 25% share of wine value sales.
The High Potentials: These tend to leave purchases to the last minute and represent about 21% of the wine-drinking population. They drink about twice a week and see wine as a social signifier, worrying what friends will think of their choice. A slightly younger profile than the routiners, with 64% under 34 and only 3% over 45. Key regions are London, the South East and East Anglia. They account for 24% of wine value sales and spend about £4.89 on a bottle but will trade up to £6-£7 for a special occasion.
The Engaged Explorers: This male-dominated group makes up about 11% of the drinking population and is the oldest group, most aged above 45. More than 65% have children who have left home and they tend to live in London and the South East. They keep an eye out for wines carrying medals and will spend about £4.89 per bottle for everday and £7-plus for dining with friends. They account for 21% of wine value sales.
The Experts: Not surprisingly, these are thin on the ground, making up only 4% of the wine-drinking population. They buy in bulk and tend to drink with meals, but will happily spend under £5 for everyday drinking and about £7.99 for a special occasion. Champagne is regarded as part of everyday life, not just for special occasions. You will mostly find them in East Anglia and the West Country, but rarely in southern England. They represent 10% of wine value sales.
The Newbies: The newbie, accounting for 24% of wine drinkers, is a key consumer for c-stores as this is where they will buy most of their wine. They drink less than once a week but when they do they tend to drink a lot - accounting for about a quarter of volume. They are the youngest group with 65% aged 18-24. They tend to spend about £3.80 on a bottle, and above £5 for a special occasion. They don't understand red wine and are the least likely to drink French wine. You'll find most of them in the Midlands. They account for 10% of wine value sales.
The Occasionals: These drink wine about once a week with food, preferring spirits or beer at home. They rely on brands and tend to spend about £3.70 per bottle at home and £5.50 for special occasions. They account for 14% of wine drinkers and 5% of wine value sales.
The Economisers: They account for 9% of drinkers and are looking for a bargain. They drink regularly but don't experiment or trade up. They spend about £3.21 on a bottle for everyday and £3.68 for dining. They tend to live in East Anglia, Midlands and central southern regions. They account for 4% of wine value sales.