Voice of experience offers M&S advice

23 July, 2010

I was delighted to read Andrew Bird’s comments about Marks &Spencer and agree with many that it has really upped its game over recent years with regards to wine (OLN, July 9).

The various industry awards prove that point.

It deserves credit for expertly sourcing a wide range of interesting wines, and seeking

out the new and innovative.

I read too with interest that it plans to employ 200 wine advisers in stores, which, by the way, I wholly endorse as they add that point of difference to store operations – they have better stock results, better in-store disciplines and displays and can achieve a 2% minimum gross margin increase through trading up.

And, most importantly, they can foster relationships with customers.

However, still bearing the scars of the Sainsbury’s exercise nearly 10 years ago, I would maybe like to offer some advice?to Bird.

You need to agree that the ownership of the wine advisers is clear – who pays for them? Where do they sit in the hierarchy and are there clear lines of command and control??The whole company must buy into the proposition – not just the wine geeks but even at board level – and ensure you can demonstrate to the “bean counters” that they do add value, not just cost.

You also need to ensure retail colleagues are on side and there are enough hours in the store operation to accommodate the adviser.

Getting the right person is crucial, as is ensuring that wine enthusiasm is tempered with business and operational common sense, while having budgets for WSET courses and giving them time to study – with caveats.

Finally, it’s advisable that you test and measure the process in selected stores across the country – and with different demographics – before a mass roll-out.

Allan Cheesman?Industry consultant?Support voluntary codeI was pleased to see there is still room for a common sense approach to discussions on below-cost sales (OLN, July 9). Let’s hope we move forward with a voluntary code.

Alcohol Concern’s point about legislation being needed to stop the minority of irresponsible retailers letting down the majority of sensible people selling drink doesn’t ring true. Will a new law really act as a deterrent to these guys??MA Brown, via email

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