Exclusive news and research on the wine, spirits and beer business

News Briefs for October 26, 2017

October 26, 2017

•Walgreens plans to close some 600 stores as it consolidates its $4.38 billion merger with rival Rite Aid that won regulatory approval last month. It’s anticipated that most of the closings will come from the fleet of nearly 2,000 Rite Aid stores that Walgreens, which has 8,100 locations of its own, is gaining in the merger. Walgreens, based in suburban Chicago, expects to spend $450 million on the store closings and another $750 million in rebranding the Rite Aid stores over the next three years. The company, which reported $1 billion in beverage alcohol sales in the past year under the Walgreens banner, will emerge with a total of 9,400 U.S. locations, ranking it just behind archrival CVS, the nation’s largest drug retailer with 9,700 locations.

•Stoli Group has named Cellar Trends as its distributor in the U.K., replacing Maxxium U.K. Effective January 1, Cellar Trends will handle Stoli Group’s Stolichnaya and Elit vodkas as well as Bayou rum in the market. Amber Beverage, a subsidiary of Stoli parent SPI Group, acquired a minority stake in Cellar Trends earlier this year.

•Ste. Michelle Wine Estates posted a revenue decline of 0.5% to $181 million for its third quarter ended in September, as operating income slipped 5.3% to $36 million. Parent company Altria said both Ste. Michelle’s third quarter and year-to-date results were “negatively impacted by increased competitive activity, continued trade inventory reductions and slower premium wine category growth.” Shipment volume for the nine-month period declined 8% to 5.7 million cases, the company said. For its fiscal year-to-date, Ste. Michelle’s net revenue fell 5.4% to $471 million, while operating income slipped 18% to $82 million.

•Brown-Forman’s Woodford Reserve has been named presenting sponsor for the Kentucky Derby from 2018 through 2022. While the brand has been the “official Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby” since 1999, this expanded partnership elevates the Bourbon to the race’s marquee and includes an NBC tie-in and signage promoting the whiskey throughout Churchill Downs. Brown-Forman will host branded events leading up to next year’s Derby day, May 5. Woodford Reserve grew 19% to 446,000 cases in the U.S. last year, according to Impact Databank.

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