Schild's IGA Wine Tastings Capture Interest & Sales

Nov 30, 2022

Choosing a wine can be intimidating for the first-time shopper, let alone buying the right one for a dinner party. So why not connect with your customers while providing some insight in this vast category with a wine tasting?

The U.S. is the largest wine market in the world and its total retail value increased 17.4% in 2021 to $78.4 billion. Think of all the new customers you could bring in if they understood your wine selection!

We spoke to the operators of wine tasting events at Schild's IGA in Grafton, Ohio and Schild's IGA Marketplace in Norwalk, Ohio, for insights on how to host a successful tasting and what kind of sales bump to expect after an event. 

First, each store must determine the best approach for their layout and customers. For example, at the Norwalk Schild's IGA, Store Supervisor and Head of Wine Events Patty O'Neal offers an open table concept with O'Neal behind the table. Held every other Friday between 3-6 p.m., curious shoppers can stop by and explore different taste offerings. O’Neal always has six wines at her table: two sweet, two dry, and two that are “middle of the road.”

Alternatively, Schild's IGA in Grafton hosts a more formal event, where guests purchase pre-sale tickets for an elaborate after-hours gathering. Owner Kevin Schild brings in wine distributors, each with their own table and representative, to talk to customers about the wine offered. 

“I'm just there to answer questions and make sure everybody's having a good time at the events,” Schild says. “And by the end of the day after sampling, everybody are friends. So it's really a great event. Most people stay the full two hours.”

O’Neal says her favorite part about hosting these wine tastings is seeing customer palates mature over time.

“I had so many sweet wine people and they've advanced in the world from sweet drinkers to a more sophisticated, drier wine,” she says.

O'Neal has been hosting wine tastings since 2007, with the exception of a break at the height of the pandemic, and will host her next event Dec. 16. The Grafton store has been hosting their tastings for about eight years, with their most recent event on Nov. 12. They plan to host another one during the holiday season.

How to Get Started

For the first year of hosting a pre-sale ticket event, Schild recommends giving some tickets to friends and members of the community, like the local pharmacist or the mayor.

“The first time, you may lose a few dollars, but it's all about incremental sales and making sure that they have trust in you,” he says.

Schild advertises on the store's Facebook page and weekly ads, promoting eight weeks out prior to the events. A sign in his foyer helps shoppers know as well. O'Neal also promotes in their weekly flyer and on social media. 

“Try to promote it as much as you can. But I have to say probably by putting it in my little local paper every other week with my ad is probably the best,” Schild says.

“If [a grocer] has a nice wine selection, there's no reason why you shouldn't do that,” O'Neal says. “Because that promotes your wines and it brings people in and brings in sales.”

Can’t Forget the Food

As a grocer, food is another vital component in hosting these events. It's a great way to learn what food pairs well with the wines being tasted and ultimately can lead to a bigger basket size at the end following the event. 

“When we first started this, I told my wife that I want to make sure that we never run out of food," says Schild. "Because first and foremost, we are a grocery store, and we're not going to run out of food at an event. Everything that we put out comes from the store.”

Better yet, when customers enjoy a recipe, Schild can show them exactly where to buy the ingredients.

Embrace the Latest Trends

These wine tastings are also an entertaining way to way to introduce new wines in your store. Red Oval Partner Fresh Vine Wines is providing members of the Independent Grocers Alliance with the opportunity to be among the first grocers in the country to carry these better-for-you wines in stores.

Both Schild's IGA retailers have capitalized on this offering. The Nov. 12 tasting at the Grafton location was the perfect opportunity to debut the low-calorie, low-sugar wines, with Schild sharing the customer reception went “really well.”

“They ended up doing 18% of wine sales that day —  about $500 worth of sales that night. For a first time out, that's great. They did really well,” Schild says, adding, "The tastings are an organic way to introduce new wines to the store. They allow the distributors to gauge the success with the customer interest being displayed in front of them." 

Wine tasting events also offer a low-risk opportunity for retailers to get new, trending wines in front of their shoppers to see which resonate. Based on which sell more or receive strong feedback, the retailers can order more and promote to those shoppers who are already invested thanks to the tasting.

“The Fresh Vine Sauvignon Blanc is a very good seller now,” O’Neal says. She adds that better-for-you wines are gaining consumer interest at her store, which aligns with wine sales trends throughout the country. In fact, better-for-you wine sales have grown over 200% in the last year, according to Fresh Vine Wines Co-Founder and Winemaker Jamey Whetstone.

These wine tasting events are a way to get closer to your community, introduce new products, and help shoppers understand a category that can seem rather intimidating. The holidays are a great time to give wine as a gift to friends, family, or coworkers – now is your chance to build those moments!

For more information on Fresh Vine Wines, including how to stock these trending wines in your stores, click here.

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