Wine focus for Little Waitrose

Waitrose will be making its drinks range as diverse and premium as possible as it rolls out its Little Waitrose smaller-format convenience stores.

The supermarket already has 23 convenience shops and recently announced a pilot scheme to put Little Waitrose c-stores in Shell forecourts.

Buying manager for wine Andrew Shaw told OLN the shops will have WSET-trained wine specialists, some of whom will be moved from larger shops to cut their commutes.

“Wine features quite heavily because Little Waitrose is not only about convenience but also about a lifestyle choice. There will be a disproportionately high number of alcohol products compared with some other products,” he said.

“It’s a core range of wines that attracts as broad an audience as possible – a semi-branded assortment of generic wines with a Waitrose fashion.

“We are trying within a confined category to offer as much diversity as possible – it won’t be wall-to-wall Shiraz and Pinot Grigio.” 

He added: “We will certainly try and escalate the price point as far as we can. All our convenience goes through an ongoing assessment to make sure we have got the right wines in there at the right price points. 

“At the end of the day the customers will decide what will succeed and what will not.”

At its autumn and winter portfolio tasting Waitrose unveiled a number of new wines, including six new additions from California producers Hahn, Blackburn & James and the McManis Family, as well as a number of new lines from Italy and France and an expanded selection from eastern Europe.

Shaw said: “For the winter season we are focusing on bigger, bolder, more impactful wines. We had a range review this year that altered the focus to drive and expand wines from Italy, certain areas of France including Rhône reds and from the New World, the US and California.”

He added: “We are as diverse as Waitrose has ever been. 

“We have a greater breadth of wines from every region and every country that really highlights how open-minded our customer base is to buy into new products and to a certain extent how narrow-minded one can easily become within multiple retail, demonstrated by our competitor set.”

The supermarket is in the middle of a project to move 10-12% of its range to lightweight glass by the end of 2012, and it introduced two Spanish wines at the tasting designed to be drunk straight from the plastic cups they are packaged in – La Copita Tempranillo 2010 and Verdejo (rrp £2.39).

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