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ABC Fine Wine & Spirits Expands Into Western Florida As Modernization Drive Continues

June 22, 2015

With retail competition heating up in the Sunshine State in recent years, Orlando-based chain ABC Fine Wine & Spirits has undertaken a modernization push across its 140-unit Florida footprint in a bid to keep the ever-expanding grocery store channel at bay. The company tells SND it’s also advancing into new territory, making landfall in the Florida Panhandle (and entering a new time zone) over the past year. ABC opened its first Panhandle store in Panama City Beach last October and added a 13,000-square foot unit in Destin in April. The market response has proven favorable in the early going, says ABC marketing chief Bob Gibson, adding that construction will begin soon on two additional ABC locations in Mount Dora and Lake Nona, both in central Florida.

In all, the family-owned company—whose sales were estimated at around $500 million last year—will operate about 140 stores by year-end, down from a high of 200 units 15 years ago. “We’ve gone to an entirely new prototype store,” Gibson says. “About five years ago, we created an all-new interior and now each store has a very intuitive flow.”

Along with its modernization drive, ABC has implemented new concepts like its Brew Stop stations, where consumers can fill 32-ounce growlers (64-ounce growlers will be offered beginning in July when they become legal in Florida following a long legislative push). Gibson says the Brew Stop idea has been integral in leveraging the Florida market’s surging interest in craft and imported beers.

Healthy sales of red blends and California offerings in general are driving wine growth, as are Italian imports like Pinot Grigio. Still, Gibson says ABC’s wine sales are progressing less rapidly than the beer side. “As Florida has a growing Hispanic population, we see a lot of South American wines like Malbec doing well,” he notes, adding that boxed wine, which has historically struggled in Florida relative to other markets, is making gains as packaging improves.

In spirits, Bourbon and Tequila are leading with gains at the high end, although vodka and rum still have larger bases. “Value brands seem to be losing share as people trade up,” Gibson says. “Just as craft beer is doing really well, we see growth in craft spirits and we’re continuing to seek out more.” Another area of expansion is ABC’s Direct To You private label business. Direct To You has been growing steadily in recent years, and the retailer is committed to discovering more sources of wine and spirits to fuel it. On the more challenging side, the RTD category has been a sluggish performer lately, Gibson observes.

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