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Massachusetts Retailer Gordon’s Focuses On Fine Wine As Competition Heats Up

November 1, 2019

In the 15-odd miles between Waltham, Massachusetts and downtown Boston, Rick Gordon and his sons David and Kenny own five retail stores operating under the Gordon’s Fine Wines & Liquors name. While Rick remains integral to the business, David and Kenny are ushering in a modern era for the 85-year-old retailer. For their creation of dynamic neighborhood stores that have readily adapted to the changing Massachusetts retail climate, Rick, David, and Kenny Gordon were recently named 2019 Market Watch Leaders.

“It’s a whole new world for beverage alcohol retail in this state, especially as more supermarkets enter the marketplace,” says David. “We’re constantly asking how we can set ourselves apart. Usually, it’s by investing in more space for higher-end products.”

Chief among the luxury wines on offer at Gordon’s are releases from Burgundy and Bordeaux. “We’re trying to get to the level of premier New York retailers,” David notes. “To that end, we’re doing fantastic business with Bordeaux futures and Burgundy pre-arrivals—and building an extremely high-end clientele that will spend anywhere from $1,000 to $400,000 per visit.”

Wine director Ian Halbert oversees Gordon’s Burgundy selection, which includes around 1,208 red wines and 750 whites, making Burgundy the single-largest category at the store. The selection starts at $10 a 750-ml. for As Apero Sympa Rouge Et Cassis and goes all the way up to the 1988 A. Rousseau Chambertin ($3,425).

Bordeaux specialist Guy Davies, who joined the team in 2013, has expanded the Bordeaux program at Gordon’s, and drummed up a more substantial futures business. Gordon’s stocks around 450 Bordeaux wines—and some 120 of those are futures—ranging from the 2010 Haut Bardin Bordeaux Rouge ($9 a 750-ml.) to the 1986 Château Léoville Las Cases St. Julien ($5,045). In addition to Gordon’s Bordeaux and Burgundy Lists, there’s the Reserve List, designed for customers seeking top-scored wines from Spain, Italy, and the Napa Valley.

Across all stores, Gordon’s offers some 7,413 wine SKUs, with its flagship store carrying 1,000 labels and the newest store in Downtown Crossing stocking 400 different brands. Although the share numbers differ by store, about 55% of Gordon’s total sales come from wine.

Spirits generate around 30% of sales. Private-barrel whiskies have become a cornerstone of the Gordon’s spirits section in the four years since they first appeared in-store, with Kenny leading the charge. Gordon’s private-barrel business kicked off with a WhistlePig rye bottling. Since then, a number of other brands have become an integral part of Gordon’s private-barrel business, with Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Widow Jane, and several others among the recent brands tapped for inclusion. Around 25 private-barrel whiskies are released each year, retail-priced at $45-$250 a 750-ml. Market Watch has more on Gordon’s and the evolving Massachusetts retail market. —Julia Higgins

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