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Family-Owned Retailer Stew Leonard’s Sees Revenues Top $100 Million

November 3, 2017

With nine independently owned and operated stores across Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, Stew Leonard’s Wines & Spirits has become a retail force spanning the tri-state area. Annual revenue for the beverage alcohol outlets tops $100 million a year and is complemented by $400 million from the six Stew Leonard’s supermarkets in Connecticut and New York.

“The wine business matches up with the food business perfectly,” says president and CEO Stew Leonard Jr., who recently was named “Retailer of the Year” by SND sister publication Market Watch magazine. The beverage alcohol side launched in the 1990s, with the inspiration coming from many of Leonard’s grocery customers asking for beverage recommendations to complement their food purchases. The first Stew Leonard’s Wines & Spirits store opened in Yonkers, New York, in 1999 and Leonard says it was an instant success. Today, that one location does nearly $20 million a year in sales.

Wine comprises 60% of total sales at Stew Leonard’s Wines & Spirits, though Leonard notes that spirits and beer have taken a few percentage points away from wine in the last couple of years. Surging sales of Bourbon and other whiskies, as well as craft beer and growlers, have contributed to that shift and helped grow the overall beverage business. The stores range from 6,600 to 13,000 square feet and carry anywhere from 2,800 to 3,800 SKUs.

Spirits account for 30% of revenue, while beer contributes 10%. Smaller and more allocated labels have been driving growth in Bourbon, and domestic vodkas are also moving fast. Leonard adds that Tequila and mezcal are garnering increased interest from consumers as well. The stores stock 600 to 800 spirits SKUs per location.

The business is a family affair. While Stew Leonard Jr. helms the organization, he often consults with his father, Stew Leonard Sr., who founded the business. Leonard’s four daughters grew up in retail and in the wine industry. Blake Leonard, his oldest daughter, is a certified sommelier who joined the family business in 2016 and now serves as brand manager for Stew Leonard’s Wines & Spirits.

Since entering the business last year, Blake has been integral in helping Stew Leonard’s implement modern technologies. She has revamped the company’s website, Stewswines.com, and launched a service that allows customers to place orders online and pick them up in-store. Each unit has its own website, making it easier for customers to have their purchases delivered in the local market. “The e-commerce side is growing and did really well during the holidays last year,” Blake says. “Shipping has definitely been a challenge, and we’d love to build that part of the business. Right now, our focus is more on bringing convenience to the customers in our shopping areas versus trying to get new customers from elsewhere.”

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