Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Costco to sell fine wine in the UK

Costco’s director of wine buying Annette Alvarez-Peters may have caused controversy earlier this year when she slammed wine as “just a beverage” and “no different than toilet paper,” but the company – the world's largest wine retailer – is on a fine wine offensive in the UK. News has emerged this week, as reported on db.com, that Costco is branching out into the UK market, having launched a UK website, Costco.co.uk, selling high-end wines and spirits.

Open to both Costco members and non-members, the site, which went live last week, features a 131-strong wine and spirits range, including Champagne big guns Cristal, Krug and Dom Pérignon, and classed growth Bordeaux from the acclaimed 2009 vintage. Topping the offering is a bottle of Taylor’s Scion Tawny Port dating back to 1855 housed in a bespoke crystal decanter, which is on sale for £1,599.99.
Meanwhile, a single bottle of Château L’Eglise Clinet Pomerol 2009 is priced at £339.99, while the same vintage of “flying fifth” Château Pontet-Canet is going for under a third of the price at £99.99. At the value end, a bottle of Saint-Julien estate Gruaud Larose’s second wine, Sarget de Gruaud Larose 2009, is priced at £18.49, while Haut Médoc estate Château Senejac 2009 costs just £15.49.

Among the sprits on sale are Patrón Tequila, Ciroc Vodka, Johnnnie Walker Blue Label, Courvioiser Cognac and English Vodka brand Chase. Delivery is free, and Costo’s online customers will be treated to exclusive offers. It will be interesting to track how Costco.co.uk performs. The UK wine market is a crowded place, and in order to thrive, a merchant’s offering has to be both compelling and unique.

New York-based online merchant Lot18 is a recent casualty, closing its UK operation in July after just four months, blaming the supermarkets’ stranglehold on the UK market and a lack of anticipated growth for its exit. Is Costco.co.uk appealing enough to lure customers away from the might of the supermarkets, Majestic, and the increasing number of savvy online-only merchants entering the market? Only time will tell.

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