Ordering alcohol online has boomed during COVID-19 lockdowns but wine and drinks retailers thrive on tastings and getting people into their shops to talk booze.
We checked in with Alex Wilcox (pictured right with business partner Michael McNamara) – one half of Prince Wine Store – to see how they’re finding the balance of retail, wholesale, online sales and their wine bar, Bellota.
1. What do you think wine retail will look like post-covid? Online ordering has been a mainstay for a long time now but will it evolve, we’re thinking online tastings, Zoom wine clubs ?
Online ordering has certainly increased with the lockdown period but just as fast as it picked up it also dropped back to normal when the restrictions where lifted. So it is a hard one – I think we have seen a broadening of our customer base with people stuck at home they seem to want to try something new and our curated mixed dozens have been very popular – Good Drinking French Dozen – Good Drinking Italian Dozen etc .
Regarding tasting whilst we have had some great response to the online format everyone is really anting to get back to normal – how this will work an when is still to be decided. I think it will be some time yet before we have 150-200 pax feeling comfortable in PWS for a larger wine expo. To begin with I think we will try to move to tutored – or structured sit down tastings that last for an hour and are limited to 20 PAX. We are very lucky to have a number of spaces in both stored to allow this to happen safely.
2. What wines have kept you company through this time?
Being stuck in Melbourne away from the rest of the family, and no rowing available, has been a bit tough – and very boring – but it has allowed me to have a good look at our range of half bottles. There are some great halves available – so far the best have been the Oakridge Chardonnay, Felsina Chainati Classico and the Clonakilla Shiraz – perfect stuck in iso serves for one.
3. How are you and your teams?
It is very tough on the hospitality team from Bellota – transitioning again to a new business model with hot food delivery and Providore packs has been a struggle, but everyone is getting on with it. The retail side of things the teams are split half working from home and the other half running to keep up. For now it seems to work very well but I think the isolation form the team and energy of the store is not easy. In store the cleaning and the constant awareness of the virus with masked customer’s and general unease is tiring but we have started a daily staff training blind wine options game and this certainly helps.