Wine Seller

Circle K test aims to change attitudes about where consumers buy their vino
COSTA MESA, Calif. -- In an effort straight out of the "know your consumer" book, Circle K West Coast is capitalizing on strong wine sales by creating a "wine cellar" in a test site. "We've recognized that wine is a big opportunity in our stores," Mark Wright, category manager of beverages for the chain, told CSP Daily News. "The perception of Circle K right now is not 'That's where I go to get my wine.' We're trying to change that."

That effort began in December with the opening of a 100-square-foot wine cellar in a store in Costa Mesa, Calif., that is the jumping-off [image-nocss] point toward the chain "offering more selection and looking at certain [marketing] areas, merchandising certain brands by area, so higher-end wines for the higher income area, for example, and have a little bit for everybody."

Working with E&J Gallo and other supply partners, Circle K West Coast set the area apart from the rest of the 2,800-square-foot store, adding wine racks for red wines and a small cooler for whites. Outside the "wine cellar," the store also includes another two warm racks, plus an additional cold-vault door of other white wines.

Why in this store?

"That store is our No.1 wine-selling store in the company. So we really saw an opportunity there just because of the volume that it did for us," Wright said. "If we can do three or four units per day per store, that would be pretty good. This store is doing about seven to 10 units per day."

Wine prices ranging from $5.99 to $90, and Wright said he's pleased with the sales results thus far. "Year to date we've seen about a 3% increase [in wine sales] in that store, and that's in a high-volume wine store to begin with," he said. "With the way the economy isand we've really got more upscale wines in thereI think that's pretty good."

But Wright is perhaps even more pleased that the store is gaining reputation as a place to stop to buy wine. "We want word to get out and let people know they can go to Circle K and get a nice bottle of wine, and I think that's what's happening," he said. "It's picking up speed."

So will Californians see more of the artfully decorated wine cellars in the Circle K division's 165 corporate stores?

"We would certainly like to do that. Unfortunately our stores are limited on size. So we have to really be creative with the space," said Wright. "We would probably do some more, and there might be one or two coming up in the next year. We've got a smaller wine cellar in our Newport Beach store. It's not as detailed, but we do consider it a wine cellar, and that's doing pretty good for us, too."

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