Tesco BWS director Dan Jago said the "elastic walls and shelves" of Tesco's online business although growing from a relatively small base represented a significant opportunity. According to analysts Mintel, online sales of alcoholic drinks will hit £921m this year up 12% y-o-y.
Jago said Tesco's online sales via tesco.com and the retailer's dedicated Wine by the Case website currently accounted for about 10% of the retailer's £2bn wine business in the UK. "Visits to online wine are growing at 16% at the moment," he added.
Online grocery sales currently valued at £5.8bn by IGD were expected to more than double in the next four years. Based on IGD figures for online sales growth, and taking into account the increase Tesco had been seeing in visits to its wine websites, wine would grow faster than grocery and non-food over the period, Jago claimed.
"We believe customers will transfer themselves from in-store to online but we're not going to force them to do it. We want to make sure the dialogue is very much about them taking the lead," said Jago, who also pointed out the vast difference in typical spend between online wine shoppers and their in-store peers. While Tesco's in-store shoppers spent £9 per trip on an average of 1.8 bottles, online shoppers splashed out more than £135 on 25.2 bottles.
Mintel senior drinks analyst Jonny Forsyth supported Jago's claim that the outlook for online wine sales was positive.
"If you combine the hassle-free nature of online shopping with the sheer weight of the product, those are compelling reasons wine would do well," he said.
According to specialist online retailer Naked Wines, the growth of online wine would further polarise the market.
"Supermarkets are stocking an ever-narrower range of low-priced wines and online specialists are focusing on authenticity," claimed its founder, Rowan Gormley.