Working Retail, Getting An Education

After many years of saying I was going to work part time in a wine shop, I’m finally doing it. The idea is to learn the business and understand it from the retailer’s point of view rather than the journalist e/o public relations idea of sales. I also get to meet more people in the trade and to really understand the workings of the “business.” I have a renewed appreciation for just how hard it is to sell wine both as a retailer and as an importer. Often people who work in PR or are journalists are accused of not knowing much about the business side, of waxing poetic about indigenous varieties and wines that are made for the very few.

Alain, Keri, Francois and Mollie B.

I’m finding that working retail is much more of an education than I might have thought. I’m learning things about people’s true reticence when buying wine and just how few know what they want to drink and why. I’ve also discovered that people use wine stores as therapy, not retail therapy but just to come and chat. Maybe its the proximity of alcohol or my short dress and winning smile but I doubt it :).

I’ve found that customers ask for a wine they can cook with much more often than I would have thought even in a beautiful upscale shop like Maslow. In Italy, people use wine to cook with that they have generally had the day before or the ones that come in cartons, like Tavarnelle.

I always suggest something neutral and that they also might enjoy drinking. Many people come with an idea of how much they want to spend and that’s their primary focus yet they are open to trying new things if the price is right.

Maslow 6, the store that I am working in is owned by Keri Jackson Kunzle. Keri is a friend and has many wines that I really like and buy on a regular basis. She also does tastings everyday which I think is a great way to have both your staff and customers get to know your wines. Keri’s been very lovely to let me see what goes on in the “real” world . The idea is that one day I shall own part of a wine store. I thought it would be appropriate to know what I would be getting into before starting out.

I discovered that lifting heavy boxes of wine is my primary constraint, I’ve got to get back to the gym. My cute red heels were the wrong choice for today’s load but I guess it’s all a work in progress.

Three observations:

a) Many people love to be guided so that educating your wine staff should be key to all wine stores owners.
b) Regular tastings and a welcoming atmosphere make people return to the store early and often.
c) Tribeca is a whole world unto itself.

More musing on wine stores at a later date.

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