Why Big Movers Hog LCBO Shelf Space
National Post Weekly Wine & Spirits Columnist
Saturday, April 10, 2004
(CLICK ON THE NAME - All listings are automatically linked to the LCBO database)
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are popping up everywhere, like the every prolific Easter Bunny. No I am
not referring to our seasonal furry friends, but rather the dozens of
identical wines that hog all the best shelf locations at local LCBO
stores. Visiting Yonge Street’s prestigious Summerhill store, I am
overwhelmed by wave after wave of Australian Wolf Blass. Meanwhile, I
scurry around searching the bottom shelves for the facing of the wine I
actually want to buy.
is a sad story. Stores are now forced to carry high selling
“core” wines, which are selected by head office on the basis of
profitability. Meanwhile, the total number of wines available in any store
is capped. As a result, over the past two years the real selection in some
stores has dropped by as much as 35%. The LCBO suggests that this is good
because consumers can now find popular brands more easily.
there is more. The LCBO’s new door-to-floor inventory means that the big
sellers get more floor space than ever
before. Add to this the LCBO plan-o-gram, which dictates what goes
on the shelve and exactly where. Long gone are the days when LCBO
personnel could arbitrarily put a great new wine on the top shelf. Now top
shelf space is reserved for those individual brands, which as a group,
generate the most income.
LCBO’s justification is to simply give the customer what they want –
if it’s popular put it out front. I don’t have problem with that, but
it would seem that this system makes it difficult for small sellers to get
ahead. “It actually penalizing
wines that are not huge sellers,” complains one wine agent. “God
knows, it’s hard enough to just get a listing – the LCBO wants you to
spend a lot of money advertising in Food & Drink and in their store
programs. Then to see it go down
the tubes, just a short time after, because it didn’t make the LCBO’s
arbitrary quota – well that, really hurts.”
course, one can always participate in the LCBO’s
advertising/merchandising programs, assuming that openings are available
and/or the LCBO accepts your application. Unfortunately, such promotions
are hugely expensive and many small producers can’t afford the outlay.
Moreover, they don’t always work. and even if sales jump, it still
doesn’t get a product on the top shelf. It’s a system that keeps the
status quo, by helping the big players who have deep pockets.
this to the private system, where individual store owners try to get
customers to discover their new buys, which often get top shelve exposure.
The reason: private stores want to provide something special in order to
attract customers. Unfortunately, no such competition exists in Ontario,
explaining why the LCBO has been reducing the number of listing skews.
Imagine the incredible boost in LCBO profits if everyone could be
convinced to buy either Andy Brandt Red or Andy Brandt White. Those
wanting a rosé could simply blend the two at home.
March 29th, the LCBO delisted 40 wines for not making quota. As
usual, there was no public announcement. I provided readers with details
of delisted sale items on my website. When I tried to track down some of
the better wines on the LCBO’s website database, I found that they no
longer existed. This, despite the fact, that they were still available,
albeit in limited quantities, in a many LCBO stores. It was just another
inconvenience to its captive customers who had to call the infoline to
find remaining stock..
As some very
good buys exist on the general list, here are a few for Easter. Given its
huge LCBO exposure, it should easy to find Wolf
Blass 2003 South Australia Riesling (505370) at $11.95. It is
very faintly sweet but refreshing with attractive, slightly spicy, gentle
ripe lemon and pear flavours that show nice minerality and a lingering
finish. This versatile, crowd-pleaser is best with poultry, ham or
contrast, South Africa’s Drostdy-Hof
(343202) has loads more character. A steal at $9.00, look for a slightly
smoky, ripe pear nose followed up by dry, well balanced, smoke-tinged,
baked pear flavours with good length and acidity.
idiosyncratic, is the seriously spicy Etchart
Cafayate 2003 Torrontes
(283754) at $9.95. It comes from Argentina and has a lovely, honeyed, ripe
tangerine citrus nose. It is surprisingly dry on the palate with very
spicy, lychee, rose petal and ripe pear flavours plus a touch of pepper on
the finish. If you like Gewurztraminer, you will love this!
Finally, if you are looking for a magnum of crowd pleasing red, check out Lindemans 2002 Bin 50 Shiraz (614776) at $22.95 (1500 ml). This Aussi has a dark ripe plum nose with some spicy cocoa notes and is quite rich on the palate with ripe black cherry, cassis and cedar flavours. Perfect with bbq ribs, I even preferred it to their more expensive 2002 Reserve Shiraz (482299) at $13.95.
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