Time to turn off-licences on their heads

I think Unwins marketing director Ian McLernon hits the nail on the head when he says “the off-licence needs to reinvent itself” (MW last week).

There is no place for blandness or mediocrity in a market as pressured as drinks retailing, and I applaud his decision to launch the Phillips Newman concept as an “upmarket” store.

It is a bold move, but one that I believe will pay off due to the real desire being shown by consumers to seek out “real value” in the form of excellent products being grouped by style, not just by country. Does this reflect a level of maturity being demanded by wine consumers? I think it probably does.

Equally, in my own industry, I am seeing changes afoot. Beer consumers are demanding more and more from their retailer. Gone are the days when you could just stack a pile of cans of questionable quality beer on the floor and wait to re-stock them.

Unlike the wine trade, beer consumers are confused about beer. They are met with row upon row of exotic bottles and cans only to discover that the German, Japanese or Australian beer they have just bought was actually brewed in Wales, the Midlands or Home Counties.

So let’s turn stocking policies on their head! Wines by style, beers by the country in which they are brewed – a far more sensible option, and one that will guarantee the consumer gets what he or she pays for.

John Harley

Chief executive

Budweiser Budvar UK

London WC1

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