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Interview, Part 2: Total Wine & More’s David Trone

April 23, 2014

In this second part of our interview with David Trone, the Total Wine & More president and co-owner discusses a host of recent and future initiatives intended to educate and engage the retail chain’s customers while upgrading the in-store experience.

SND: How was your recent “Discover Washington” program received, in which you featured the state’s wines, spirits and beers with tastings and education at several stores in multiple markets? Do you expect to extend that to other categories?

Trone: We see the “Discover” series as a different way to go at our marketing. We want to run with the best prices and selection, but we think the best method to make consumer connections is through our people. We’re working to develop the best service team in the field. We’ll take the Discover series and move it to a number of different venues this year to test it. Washington was a great opportunity to start with, and that’s been a home run. We’ll follow with Discover initiatives on Italy, France, single malt Scotch, Tequila and craft beer. We’re looking to partner with our suppliers—for Discover Washington we partnered with Chateau Ste. Michelle, which was spectacular. We’ll do the same with the other categories, and we think it will create a win-win relationship.

SND: Has your Brewery District “store-within-a-store” been a success in the early going?

Trone: It has. What’s happening in America with craft beer isn’t ending anytime soon. There are 2,000 craft brewers operating now, and another 1,000 in the planning stages, so it’s going to continue to roll. We’re better positioned now with the Brewery District, which speaks directly to the craft and imported beer drinker. Previously, they weren’t really getting their due, because of our giant focus on wine and spirits. The Brewery District features its own bar, and we’re working on growler legislation throughout the country. Washington already allowed growler fills, and we helped get them passed in Arizona, Nevada, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia as well. The Brewery District represents a nice bit of business, but it’s also a good differentiator. It really appeals to the opinion leaders in the craft beer category.

SND: What other in-store initiatives have been effective in keeping consumers engaged?

Trone: In addition to the Brewery District, our Wine Bar and our classroom education programs have been significant enhancements for us. We’re now doing live tastings with key winemakers like Wagner Family, Silver Oak, Duckhorn and others, with the winemaker beamed from the vineyard onto our classroom screens. Customers can tweet back questions to the winemaker to answer while they’re tasting, so it’s an interactive experience. It’s been a great way to connect with Millennials. We’re also testing something called Total Mixology now, which is a store within a store for spirits, and we see that moving along. Another recent addition is our New Display, a giant fixture that’s going into every store now. When a new item rolls out from one of the major suppliers, we have that item highlighted there in the best spot in the store.

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