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Straight Talk With Chris Adams, CEO Of Sherry-Lehmann

May 29, 2020

Wine Spectator’s Straight Talk series on Instagram Live continued Tuesday with a conversation between Wine Spectator senior editor Bruce Sanderson and Chris Adams, CEO of New York retail institution Sherry-Lehmann, discussing the challenges facing wine and spirits retailers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We made the determination very early on that—because we were deemed essential—not only were we going to keep our phones and internet open, we were going to keep the store open,” Adams said. “We feel we’re part of the neighborhood on the Upper East Side.”

Unsurprisingly, while delivery is booming, in-store sales are vastly diminished, Adams reported, with Sherry-Lehmann handling about 20-30 in-store orders a day. Still, that’s an improvement over the early weeks of the pandemic. The store is stocked with hand sanitizer and masks, and the floor is marked with tape to help guests keep an appropriate distance.

Adams said Sherry-Lehmann was well equipped to shift to a more delivery-focused market because the store has made deliveries for over 50 years and has its own warehouse in Queens. Sherry-Lehmann is currently offering free delivery on orders of $150 or more. Initially, Adams assumed that the early surge in delivery orders would crest and return to a more typical level, but that hasn’t happened. “People are finding great solace in cooking a good meal and having a nice bottle of wine at home,” he said.

Customers are reaching for familiar brands like Whispering Angel, Antinori, and Domaine Ott, among others, he noted. Wines in the $13 to $30 price range are performing best as customers look for affordable luxuries during the pandemic. “When you’re able to put those in front of the customer at an attractive price with a great infrastructure that gets the wine and spirits to them quickly, we find that there’s a huge appetite,” he said.

Watch the full episode to hear more from Adams, and tune in to Straight Talk on Wine Spectator’s Instagram page, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 p.m. ET.—Shane English

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