Booths trials wine samplers

North west England supermarket chain Booths is using a four-week long wine promotion to test the viability of sampling machines.

It has installed machines to offer free samples of 64 wines at its branch in Knutsford, Cheshire, and will compare sales of these with the same wines not offered as samples in its other stores.

If the Knutsford results prove a success the sampling system will be rolled out to its other stores, Booths said.

The Big Wine Event sees Booths selling special parcels of wine and running non-machine customer sampling across its estate on these and selected wines from its core range.

Tasting samples on offer included Chateau d’Yquem 1997 for the first 40 customers visiting its larger branches.

Among other featured parcels have been Chateau Palmer 1996, 2001 and 2004 claret, Sassicaia 2009 from Tuscany, Chateauneuf du Pape Beaucastel 2008 and Henschke Hill of Grace 2005 Shiraz from Australia.

“We will be using the free sampling of wines as a new approach to selling wine,” said chief operating officer and former wine buyer Chris Dee, who described shopping for wine as a “winefield” for customers.

“One step to the left or right in the aisle and you find yourself buying a wine that’s too sweet, too dry, too fruity or too intense,” he said. “You explode; all that money spent on a wine you don’t like.”

He said customers were “entranced” by half-price deals, special offers and pile them high and sell them cheap policies.

“We have done a few too many special offers in the past ourselves,” he added. “It seemed to be the way, and if we didn’t do the same [as other supermarkets] we thought our customers would desert us for a flashier offer.

“But we asked out customers last year what changes they’d like to their wine buying experience and, though our staff gained praise for their service, customers made the straightforward comment that reading or hearing about a wine isn’t the same as tasting it.”

Wine buyer Andy Green added: “Customers pay lots of money for restaurant house wines. We can show them if they come to Booths and pay a similar amount they can get some very special world-class wines.”

He added: “We want out staff to become like wine travel agents, taking customers away from familiar well-travelled resorts to somewhere new and exciting.”

The Big Wine Event runs until November 5.

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