Morrisons scraps wine site: the £100 million opportunity it was chasing must seem increasingly hard to snare

09 May, 2014

It was only a matter of time before Morrisons’ board-level woes impacted on its drinks team’s aspirations.

Suppliers who have attended its conferences over recent years will recall the mantras of a business set on building wine into a halo category and many brand owners hailed the Bradford-based supermarket as the place to be, full of ideas and energy.

In november 2012, months of research came to fruition and Morrisons’ first online transactional website went live. shoppers could pick from more than 1,000 wines and the intention was that the portal would add £100 million to the retailer’s wine sales within three years.

Just 18 months later, Morrisons is in a considerably less bullish mood and is headed for the virtual dotcom graveyard.

This week it announced wine sales would be absorbed into its main grocery site, which launched at the beginning of 2014, the spin being that this had always been the intention.

But the move, coupled with a 40%-off bin-end sale of hundreds of wines on its site, clearly signals a major retreat and a recalibration of Morrisons’ intentions.

Morrisons acknowledged some years ago that its efforts in wine were really just a case of catching up with what everyone had been doing long before, and perhaps part of the problem is that its strategy didn’t take the market anywhere new. But, at a time when rivals are pursuing and broadening their online offer like never before, this week’s development exposes the true extent of Morrisons’ backtracking.

With a 7.1% drop in total grocery sales and its well-publicised war cry to go head to head with the discounters, it was inevitable that Morrisons’ ambitions for wine would be reined in.

Morrisons has fallen between two stools and, like most retailers at some time, struggled to match the business’ agenda for wine with what the customer demographic is actually willing to pay.

As Morrisons goes into battle, the £100 million opportunity it was chasing must seem increasingly hard to snare. Chasing the discounters’ race to the bottom on wine prices – just as it only copied what other players were doing with online – certainly won’t help it get to the pot of gold in the three years it intended.

It’s time for some real innovation – and long-term support from its executives – to demonstrate wine has a vital role to play in its recovery plans.

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