ShopAbility interviews a late 30s couple on changes in their liquor shopping behaviour, for National Liquor News.
In the first of a number of ‘shopper’s eye views’, here we interview Stephanie*, a corporate department head, and John*, who runs his own business, about how their liquor shopping behaviour is changing. They’re a professional couple in their late 30s who have been together nearly 10 years but don’t have any kids or pets. It demonstrates the impact of changing lifestyles and living arrangements on shopping behaviour, and that shoppers without many financial encumbrances seek things other than lowest price when shopping for liquor.
What types of alcohol do you typically drink at home?
I try not to drink during the week, and I drink mostly wine on the weekends or if we’re out, and sparkling in the summer and at Christmas.
Before John and I started living together, he used to drink a lot more beer. Over the past few years since we’ve been living together he has gradually shifted to wine, because we can share it. He drinks a lot less beer now. [Note: this is a trend significantly impacting beer consumption in NZ, as women buy wine for the household in supermarkets – ShopAbility]. Now John buys beer mostly for entertaining. He might have a beer after work with his workmates during the week, then when he gets home he’ll open a cider instead of a wine because cider has lower alcohol levels and he reckons it doesn’t make him bloat as much as beer does.
Neither of us drink spirits at home and we don’t even really have a ‘bar’ for entertaining, also because we don’t have all that much space. The last bottle of spirits I bought was Tennessee Honey whiskey because some of the recipes in Porteño restaurant’s recipe book called for it.
Where do you mostly buy your alcohol from?
I don’t know how typical we are, but we buy some of our wine through a broker and some from Dan’s and other chains, which is also where John gets the beer and cider from.
The broker came about because John and his mates were drinking all the ‘cellaring’ wine I bought so I had to put it offsite in storage, which was at WineArk. The broker was attached to WineArk and he calls me once a month or so. So I buy through the broker in ½ dozen or dozen lots but I have to buy the same thing, I can’t mix my cases very much.
If we’re being a bit more planned we also buy from Dan’s because they’ve got a large range, it’s easy to park, they’re close to home and we can mix our dozens and even mix half dozens. Often we’ll buy a single or maybe two bottles of wine there. Otherwise, if we’re out we go to whichever bottleshop is closest to us at the time, but we’ve got stuck doing that a couple of times like in Campbelltown where the bottleshops don’t really have much over $12 or the kinds of things we drink, but then we’re not they’re local market. [Note: this is evidence of some local range tailoring as the point was also made that someone from Campbelltown would wonder why a store on Sydney’s lower north shore didn’t range anything under $15 – ShopAbility].
We don’t like shopping on foot so it tends to be car-based, which means we are buying from the chains or from bottleshops that are part of pubs.
Occasionally we also buy from wineries themselves when we’re visiting, but we don’t tend to order from them online even if we’re on their mailing list. We’re still on a lot of email lists but we don’t see anything new or different on them, just the new vintage of the same stuff only on special, so we don’t tend to buy from those.
How has this changed from what you used to do?
Before the broker, we used to order through Vintage Cellars. But you had to buy a case of all the same thing and if you tried one and didn’t like it, you’d be stuck with the rest of it. I got burned a bit doing that because they would sell me what was on special and then I wouldn’t necessarily like it.
I also used to buy from Kemenys online, but now I prefer the broker because he knows what I like and I like him choosing stuff for me. It helps me to experiment, like with new regions you wouldn’t otherwise have come across, and there’s less risk. And it’s not just about trying or being sold whatever is on special. Because I like things being chosen for me rather than having to wade through a whole bunch of things myself, I haven’t really explored auction sites all that much.
I’ve heard good things about Wine Selectors and a friend loves GetWinesDirect. Mum loves David Jones wine club.
What do you think bottleshops could do better in order for you to buy more wine there and less through the broker?
Have a broader range of interesting things. Most bottleshops all have the same stuff, particularly Vintage Cellars. Help me to try new things and make sure I actually like it before I buy it. Tastings and things like that for individual brands help but I would be really interested if a bottleshop did a tasting on, say, an entire region. That way I could try a whole lot of different things and mix and match my dozens.
It’s clear from my above conversation with Stephanie that price is not an important consideration for this couple across any of the categories they buy. They value convenience, service, and for wine particularly relationship (knowing what the customer wants) and offering a low-risk ability to experiment.
Get those things right and you’ll attract couples with very high spend per transaction. And it’s a pretty frequent spend.
*names have been changed.