Somerfield is rapidly building up a reputation as a serious wine retailer, says Tim Palmer Somerfield would never claim to have led the way in the development of the wine trade in the grocery business, but as the sector has grown in importance its offering has been radically improved. Now the work it has done will come in to play as it absorbs Kwik Save. Trading manager Angela Mount is proud of the effort that has gone into turning Somerfield round. "Our image and reputation as a retailer of wine has changed dramatically over the last five years. Gateway was not considered as a serious wine retailer. Now we can compare favourably with the opposition, although we are more limited with the space we have. We do not have the acres of shelves of the competition's out of town sites." At the same time Kwik Save has been making considerable changes. "Looking at Kwik Save's potential for development," said Mount, "I compare it with the Gateway range of a few years ago." However the two formats will not be treated the same. Mount recognises they have different shoppers with different needs. "The two ranges will have their own identities, but some of the sources will be the same where there are direct parallels, such as in claret and Australian chardonnay. "Obviously there is a much bigger range in Somerfield and there will be lines exclusive to it. "When the rationalisation is complete we will look at the mix and see what works best." She completed her initial work on the New World as its latest vintages became available in the latter half of last year. The process will now move on to the European wines. Then a full range review will be in place on the shelves. "Some sources of supply will suffer," said Mount. "The basic similarity between Somerfield and Kwik Save is that people are always looking for value for money. Whatever the price they always flock to a strong bargain. "There are certain price points and products in Kwik Save which have a strong following, such as the Les Oliviers vin de pays, and we have to make sure if we replace these products, the Somerfield line will fulfil the same criteria." Mount said: "It would be foolish to make radical changes. Kwik Save has done some very good work. What we want to do is make logical alterations and keep the best of both ranges." There are some obvious duplications. There are too many Hungarians, conversely there are not enough Australians. Among these the few brands on the wine shelves will continue to play key roles. Both store groups take Piat and Gallo and Somerfield has Jacob's Creek. Mount said: "I believe in brands which support themselves. Consumers are becoming more sophisticated and more certain of their choices. But there will always be a role for brands to play, especially those with a premium image such as Hardy's or Penfold's." There is a significant proportion of Kwik Save customers looking for sub £3.50 wines, while a similar proportion in Somerfield are buying over £4. There is also a growing trend for £5 plus wines particularly from Australia, even wines at £9.99 have been doing well. The company's most expensive line sells at £12.99. Mount pointed out the Australians account for almost 10% of the UK wine market, but above £5 they hold 25%. "We have a couple of Australian lines over £5 which are among our top 20 best sellers." But she recognises that bringing in a new style of wine has to be done very carefully. "There is no point in just introducing a new line at £5, it would alienate the consumer. "I believe in the stepping stone approach. We brought in the South Americans at £2.99, then introduced varietals at £3.50-£4, and we now have a number of wines from the region at £4.99." This philosophy is being adapted for Kwik Save although Mount recognises it has consumers who will not buy a bottle of wine that costs more than £2.50. While the takeover has led to some fundamental reviews of strategy, the process of developing new areas of interest continues. Mount has high hopes for Argentina, the south of France and southern Italy. In particular she put considerable time and effort into working with the wineries in Italy to create a new range. "In both France and Italy it is important to have a good supplier base you can trust. "I spent a considerable amount of time travelling last year to set this up. Now they know the parameters within which we work and they are not going to let us down." {{Z SUPPLEMENTS }}