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Interview: Robert Trone, Co-Owner, Total Wine & More

February 13, 2023

With a sprawling U.S. presence of nearly 250 store locations and revenues of $5.5 billion, Total Wine & More continues to be a national force in beverage alcohol retail with no plans to slow down. Amid the pandemic, uneven economic conditions, and rapidly changing consumer trends, Total Wine has continued its expansion, with recent initiatives focused on upping the chain’s spirits and RTD offerings and enhancing its digital platforms to meet the needs of the modern consumer. SND executive editor Daniel Marsteller caught up with Total Wine co-owner Robert Trone for an update.

SND: What are Total Wine’s total store count and revenues currently, and what kind of expansion are you targeting for 2023?

Trone: Today we have 247 stores, and in 2022 we had total sales of $5.5 billion. We’re continuing to build new stores, with 18 new locations to be opened in 2023, and we are planning for 20 stores to be opened in 2024. The new stores will spread across many states, with California as a focus. Plus, we are remodeling 48 stores and have two re-locations planned for this year.

SND: How did 2022 finish out for wine and spirits respectively at Total Wine, and how is their outlook this year?

Trone: 2022 was a difficult year for the wine business and a strong year for the spirits business. As we look forward, the wine market is very uncertain, and it is difficult to predict the extent of the consumption declines in the upcoming year; however, it is very clear that wine premiumization has dramatically slowed down.

SND: How are those trends in wine manifesting across Total Wine’s stores?

Trone: The key trend we’re seeing is that consumers are not accepting price increases. When the retail price increases on an item, we see the consumers that were purchasing that item switch to a different item. Suppliers need to be very careful when raising prices, as they risk losing considerable market share if they raise prices and consumers switch to alternative brands. Many suppliers are overly optimistic on their ability to raise prices, and underestimate consumers’ reaction to price increases.

SND: In recent years you’ve been expanding Total Wine’s spirits offering in line with consumer trends. How is progress there?

Trone: We’re allocating more space to spirits as we build new stores and remodel existing stores. Today, spirits represent about 42% of our sales and continue to grow. We have expanded the amount of space devoted to spirits by about 75% over the last several years, and we’re focused on having the best spirits selection in every market, with the lowest prices and great service for the spirits consumer.

SND: How are your initiatives in the digital space going, and what’s new on the delivery side?

Trone: We are committed to continuing to invest in our digital platforms to drive our delivery business, our pickup business, and consumer engagement. Thus, we’re continuing to invest in our website, our app, our delivery systems, and other digital tools. The delivery business has declined slightly over the last year, but it’s still an important part of our business.

SND: Any other important current or upcoming initiatives planned for Total Wine?

Trone: Most importantly, we’re focused on our team member development, both in the stores and in our store support center. We are very focused on improving our training programs for our wine and spirits team members, who interact with our customers every day. We’ve developed considerable online training, which has been very effective. In addition, we have resumed our team members’ trips, visiting the key wine regions of the world to learn about wine. We also are offering consumer classes again on a regular basis, with a focus on both wine and spirits.

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