And it’s not just the traditional stronghold of restaurants in which sales are flourishing.
Pub and bar operators are also witnessing buoyant sales – a shift many attribute, in part, to an increased focus on food in the wake of the smoking ban.
Whatever the reason, it seems the category is continuing to go from strength to strength – and wine suppliers in Scotland are pulling out all the stops to help operators maximise sales.
While firms contacted by SLTN emphasised the importance of range and highlighted their ability to source wines exclusive to the on-trade (see page 22), they said simply stocking good products is no longer enough.
Wines which provide value for money and a strong ‘by the glass’ offer coupled with knowledgeable staff are key if operators want to boost sales – and they are all areas in which suppliers have ramped up their support for the trade.
That consumers are generally more knowledgeable about wine has only underlined the importance of knowledgeable staff, according to Ian Cumming, commercial director at Forth Wines.
“The biggest difference I have noticed [in the support we offer] is the quality of staff training and involvement,” he said. “This is absolutely crucial as the end consumer must feel comfortable about ordering wine. It doesn’t have to be a mystical journey of soil types and trellising methods – for the staff, a bit of knowledge and enthusiasm goes a long way; interesting and engaging wee stories about the wines make it so much more accessible.”
Leslie Somerville, manager of the on-trade sales team for Scotland at Enotria, said its staff training is also designed to ‘break down’ the language of wine. “It is in both our and our customers’ interests for us to help develop their staff, customer experience and sales mix,” he said.
“We have developed some fantastic training programmes that are tailored to the individual site and take into account the food offer, understanding the theatre of wine and what customers are looking for from the experience.”
For Alliance Wine and Edinburgh-based Wine Importers, food and wine matching forms a central part of the support they offer trade customers.
Simply stocking great products is no longer enough.
“We tend to focus on leading staff to wine via food – wine and food matching, helping them to understand wine and the opportunity that it creates for selling and enhancing the customer’s experience,” said Miriam Spiers, sales director at Alliance Wine. “Confidence is key.”
Billy Bell at Wine Importers echoed the importance of building staff confidence when it comes to wine, saying the company’s new Scottish Academy of Wine and Spirits delivers WSET courses designed to help on-trade operators drive wine sales through staff knowledge.
Staff training is, of course, just part of the package of support wine suppliers provide.
Highlighting wine list production, advice, training and tastings, Brian Calder at Wallaces Express said the wholesaler aims to offer “tailored wine solutions” for the on-trade.
“Wine buyers have become much more savvy about demanding the best wines at the best prices backed up by the best service and delivery,” said Calder. “The wholesale trade has undoubtedly risen to this demand and challenge, providing increased range and choice at all price points to satisfy most (if not all) customer requests.”
Predicting wine sales will continue to grow north of the border, Jon Harris, sales director for Scotland at Hallgarten Druitt, said the company has enhanced the support it offers trade customers.
“The whole industry has needed to become more customer-focused – just having great products is no longer enough,” he said.
At Bibendum, the supplier is focused on working with its on-trade customers to grow wine sales, according to Scotland sales manager Jason Baillie.
“The key word is partnership,” he said. “Any wine supplier can drop cases off at the door, but we work very hard to get under the skin of our customers and understand what they really need from us.”
Claire Blackler, wine buyer and tutor at Inverarity Morton, said the supplier also offers a comprehensive package of support for the trade.
“As well as working with our clients to create and design wine lists, which are usually seasonal and very much aligned by style and price point to the character and tone of the venue, we really go the extra mile when it comes to staff training,” she said.
Louise Boddington, wine buyer at Carlsberg UK’s Crown Cellars wine and spirits division, said it can offer a “one stop shop” for operators, delivering wines and spirits alongside beer, cider and soft drinks.
“We have a dedicated wine and spirits team to provide advice on the ideal range and we offer regular staff training and consumer tasting events,” she said. “Operators are increasingly looking to suppliers for support and advice on how to improve sales in outlets, so the team at Crown Cellars has seen increased demand for staff training and other support.”