Summer Sales End With a Bang

Data corroborate fast growth of $20-plus wines off-premise

by Jim Gordon
Symphony IRI
San Rafael, Calif. -- The September Symphony IRI off-premise sales data appear to confirm two trends that Wines & Vines has been following this year. First, that the summer holidays are becoming more wine-centric for American wine drinkers, and second, that the exciting performance of table wines in the $20-plus segment is not a fluke of the recession.

All three warm-weather holiday periods -- Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day -- saw consumers spending significantly more on wine at large chain food and drug stores than in each of the past three years. Sales of all table wine types and price-points reached $418 million during the four-week period that includes Labor Day, according to the check-stand scan data that SIRI analyzes. That beats last year’s Labor Day period by more than $20 million and surpasses the pre-recession 2007 number by $57 million, or 16%.

“With performance like this, the three summer holidays should be considered open season for wineries to promote and advertise their brands,” said Doug Goodwin, VP of client insights for beer, wine and spirits at SIRI.

The year-to-date sales picture looked similarly bright for high-end table wines in the $20-plus segment, a price range that is particularly important to thousands of small-scale wineries. Sales for this group in the most recent four-week period were 14% higher than last year, and beat 2008 and 2007 sales for similar periods by even bigger margins.
Symphony IRI
The growth in high-priced wine sales is not merely a bounce-back from the recession, Goodwin reasoned, nor can it be explained away purely as a consequence of $80- suggested retail wines being marked down to $50. He looked more closely at the current top 20 brands in dollar sales in the $20-plus segment, and found that 14 of them now sell at a higher price than four years ago; that three brands went up or down less than a dollar, and that only three went down by more than a dollar.

Overall off-premise sales of domestic table wine at major food and drug stores also increased through Sept. 5. That number, $326 million, was up by a healthy 6.4% over the similar period last year.
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