Steve Stoner pops in for a taste of the UK liquor store
The UK liquor market is a strange thing. A decade ago there were dozens of ‘off-licence’ brands such as Threshers, Unwins, Oddbins, Victoria Wine, Wine Rack and the nicely-named Bottoms Up. Now they’re all but gone, wiped out by the big supermarkets’ relentless drive into all consumer categories. However, one or two brands did survive the ‘alcoholocaust’, and there are new twitches of life from some of the ‘lost’ brands of the nineties. Are customers craving something more? Is the wine market’s love affair with supermarkets coming to end?
Majestic Wine was one notable survivor of the supermarket takeover, and it seems to have gone through something of a store transformation over the last few years. Most of the bare-floored, dusty warehouses have been overhauled and a new, more contemporary graphic style is now used for their point-of-sale. Whilst in the UK late last year I popped into one of their new format stores to take a look at how the fresh approach was shaping up.
The store I visited was in Taplow’s Bishop Centre, a retail development opened in 2014 around a large Tesco Superstore. First impressions were promising with a clean exterior, featuring large windows that allowed clear vision into the store. The entrance area was dominated by a large, tidy counter adjacent to a smart tasting area, and the store manager welcomed me with a friendly smile (still important!). The store itself had retained the ‘warehouse’ element of the Majestic brand by continuing to stack cases of wine on floor pallets rather than fancy shelving units. This merchandising choice added an extra sense of ‘value’ to the whole experience that served better than shouting offers through extensive point-of-sale.
Majestic always required customers to buy by the case, but since 2015 customers can now buy a single bottle. However, price ticketing still encourages multiple purchases by offering a discounted price on every product when buying any six bottles or more. Needless to say, the single bottle price was dwarfed by this offer price on all point-of-sale during my visit.
The new-look branding and point-of-sale design was clean, bold and contemporary, reminding me of some of Whippet’s work for First Choice Liquor from a few years ago here in Australia. Good use was made of graphic icons and the simple, minimalist colour palette worked well in giving a more aspirational feel to the store. Of particular interest was the ‘When it’s gone it’s gone’ section: limited stock wines which have been acquired by Majestic as one-off parcels. The use of the term ’WIGIG’ – a retailer term rarely spoken to customers – is an interesting choice here and one I like, as it’s become a unique Majestic asset with a memorable name. Perhaps they’ll look to compliment this with a multibuy ‘BOGOF’? With Tesco largely abandoning their Buy-One-Get-One-Free offers there may be an opening.
Overall, the new Majestic store format works well and the changes are clearly making a difference, with Majestic sales over the 2016 Christmas period up by 7.5% – their ‘best ever’ Christmas. With Oddbins recently committing to a new store expansion plan, the UK liquor market will be given new life in the coming years, and when coupled with the increase in the number of independent boutique wine stores, customers can once again look away from the supermarkets for a tipple.
Click here for a google walkthrough of the store created shortly after it opened, albeit without the newly designed graphics and point-of-sale.