Research shines a light on indie customers


Independents are doing the right things to maintain their market share in a cost-of-living crisis, according to consumer research commissioned by Hallgarten & Novum Wines.

The supplier worked with market research consultancy KAM to interview 1,185 people who buy wines from the independent sector about their shopping habits.

Tom Bennett, Hallgarten’s customer marketing manager, says the research shows that indies are doing “a really good job” despite the economic challenges that they and their customers are facing. Eight in 10 respondents say they are more conscious than they used to be about the value for money that their wine purchases represent.

The most popular reason given for buying from independents is to support a local business, followed by the desire for a personal treat, a belief that the store will provide better quality wines, and that the advice available will be good.

Most consumers surveyed believe that indies offer good value for money, and just over half said they would be tempted to spend more money at an independent merchant if a loyalty scheme was in place.

Although the research focuses exclusively on people who buy from indies, about seven in 10 respondents say they also buy wine on visits to supermarkets, with three in 10 saying they pick up bottles from Aldi or Lidl.

The research also shines a light on the language of wine. Descriptors such as “full-bodied” and “smooth” resonate with far more consumers than words like “mineral”.

When asked how they prefer to see wines displayed in a shop, four in 10 say merchandising should be arranged by country and region of origin. The next most popular option is by grape variety, and then by wine style.

When asked what influences their wine choices, the most popular reply is the taste description either on the shelf or the bottle, followed by the awards the wine has won.
Perhaps surprisingly, the wine’s sustainable or organic credentials come a lot further down the list.

Hallgarten carried out the research after consulting with many of its independent customers.

Joseph Byrne, of D Byrne & Co in Clitheroe, says: “Whilst many customers are naturally drawn to appealing wine labels, we find taste descriptions are a great way to communicate key selling points about the wines and help guide our customers.

“We always aim to build a good relationship with our customers, so they often follow our staff recommendations. It’s very helpful to see this report reinforces our key selling principles and confirms that consumers prefer to be guided in this manner.”

Alastair Wighton, owner of Alteus Wines in Crowborough, East Sussex, says: “For us, it’s about being better than ever at our core principles. Firstly, striving to ensure every style we stock is always about the best quality wine we can source at each price point, in our opinion.

“Secondly, knowing your customers and their tastes: personal recommendations are so important and the relationships you build with individuals is invaluable and rewarding – sometimes considered the old-fashioned stuff in a modern world.

“Finally, hosting loads of events and making them affordable and accessible. These build trust and loyalty. People try new styles, learn about wine, de-risk their purchases and have an awesome night out.”

Hallgarten head of buying Steve Daniel says: “We believe now is a hugely important time to support our indie retail customers and the wider trade. High inflation, increased duty and rising interest rates are all putting pressure on the market, leaving consumers with less disposable income to spend on wine.

“Understanding what is influencing consumer behaviour is key to this support, allowing us to best cater for the needs of our customers. This can be as simple as having wines open to taste through to promotions on premium bottles to encourage trade-ups.

“It’s clear that consumers value the experience of visiting specialist retailers and these findings offer great insights which can easily be acted upon to improve this experience.”

• A three-page report appears in the October 2023 edition of The Wine Merchant.

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