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Gary’s Wine And Marketplace Taps Upscale Suburban Market, Hitting $50 Million In Annual Sales

July 22, 2011

New Jersey-based Gary’s Wine & Marketplace has continued to thrive even during the economic downturn by offering its affluent suburban customers selection and good value. The three-unit operation had sales of $45 million in 2010, and sales are expected to reach $50 million this year. Of that total, 65% is wine, 13% spirits, 11% beer and 11% food/miscellaneous items. Gary Fisch owns the 13,000-square-foot store in Madison and 24,000-square-foot location in Wayne, which opened three years ago. His wife Liz owns the 13,000-square-foot unit in Bernardsville. (New Jersey law prohibits an individual from owning more than two licenses). Shanken News Daily recently spoke with Fisch about their growing business.

SND: How is your business faring in the current economy?

FISCH: We’ve always been ahead of the economic curve. When the markets tanked, our business went down, but not nearly as dramatically as others. And we started growing again before the economy began to improve.

SND: How did you manage that?

FISCH: We’re doing a huge business in Bordeaux. We went all in on the 2009 and have sold an enormous amount. There were fewer retailers willing to play that game in 2009, which really opened the door. So we took full advantage. The 2009 futures were spectacular and are still going strong. With 2010, we’re taking a more cautious approach, based on pricing. But the 2010s are actually helping the 2009s that we have left, because the 2010s are so much more costly.

SND: What about your private label business?

FISCH: I break private label down into two categories. One is the product that no consumer would recognize as private label. For example, we direct-import a Pinot Grigio under a name that appears to be a regular branded wine. The second category is one I call Honesty in Private Labeling. Our selection has three levels: Going Forward, Go Figure and Grand Finale. They’re all based, tongue-in-cheek, on my initials. The Going Forward label is a continuity brand. We have a winemaking team in California with a lot of product available. They give us samples, and we blend a style of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir that over-delivers at the price. The Pinot retails at $17.99, but it’s $30 fruit. The Chardonnay is priced at $15, and it’s $25 fruit—great Sonoma fruit.

SND: How big is Going Forward?

FISCH: Over 1,000 cases a year. The second level is Go Figure. The concept behind Go Figure is to buy leftover wine—and in the wine business that doesn’t necessarily mean lower quality. A winery will know it has a market for 800 cases but will produce 1,000 cases. What do they do with those extra 200 cases? They bulk it off for very little money, or they bottle it and figure out where to sell it. And that’s what we buy.

SND: What’s the price point on those?

FISCH: They range from a $19.99 Cabernet and Sauvignon Blanc to $50 Cabernets. But the $50 Cabernet is really a $150 Napa Cabernet—exact same wine, but they were smart enough to recognize that with the economy being so weak, they’d have to lower their price or do something unique.

SND: How do you compare yourself to Wine Library, another leading retailer in your market?

FISCH: We’re in multiple locations, and they have a single store. Our business is much more retail-driven. People have said the Internet is more than half of Wine Library’s business. At Gary’s, Internet sales are not half our business. I think they’re a very good retailer, and so are we. I’m very involved in the business, and I think that benefits us.

SND: Who are the other major competitors in your area?

FISCH: Everybody at some level is a competitor. Total Wine & More certainly is, although their stores aren’t that close to ours. But I know they use us as an example. They’re always coming in to check out what we’re doing.

SND: Does your reach extend outside of your New Jersey market area to compete with other retailers in the New York metro area, for example?

FISCH: No question. Nowadays, with mobile devices, you can check pricing anywhere, anytime. As our business has grown and changed, and as the global economy has changed, I think we’ve become a player nationally like Wine Library or Zachys. I would say we’re all in the same league.

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