In February, Marks & Spencer took home three Drinks Retailing Awards, including Supermarket of the Year. Head of BWS transformation Andrew Shaw talks Lucy Britner through his work
Andrew Shaw started life in the drinks industry at the tender age of 14, pressing grapes at Wootton Vineyard in Somerset, under the watchful eye of English wine pioneer Major Colin Gillespie. His parents also happened to be friends with the Averys (of the eponymous Wine Cellars), so he later went to work Christmas holidays in their Bristol shop – an early taste for drinks retailing.
From the vaulted cellars of Bristol, via the likes of Oddbins, a stint making wine in New Zealand, then Waitrose and Bibendum, Shaw now stands next to the slick black shelves of a brand-new Battersea M&S.
He is responsible for overhauling the supermarket’s BWS offer – so responsible in fact that his job title is head of BWS transformation. The Battersea Power Station store is part of the company’s near-£500 million investment to open 420 owned food stores.
AGENT OF CHANGE
On the shop floor, Shaw mentions backlighting trials for spirits and sparkling wine fixtures, a new livery for craft beer and plans for wooden crates to break up wine shelves and platform certain parts of the range. The aim of Shaw’s work is to make the range easier to navigate and entice not just new shoppers, but existing ones who buy food but not necessarily drinks.
So, where are we in the transformation process? Wine is “probably about 40% of the way through”, he says, as he outlines moves to evolve and premiumise the range, including the launch of Collection in November 2022 – which he says has “outperformed our forecast”, up 69% in value year on year, compared to pre-Collection branding.
“We’ve been winning market share and we’ve driven a 43p increase on the average item price across the wine category, propelled by the top end,” says Shaw.
Part of the wine transformation will include a new brand or the summer, called Expressions. It’s a range of indigenous varieties that are more well known than the ones used in the Found range – and with a similar price point. “It’ll sit between Found and Classics,” he adds, giving the example of a Negroamaro from Puglia.
“It’s a well-known grape variety – not new to market – but it’s within a range to try to drive customers into different grape varieties they wouldn’t otherwise choose.” He also describes the design as “disruptive” on the shelf.
Of the whole BWS concept, Shaw explains that the plan is to create and design a range that works backwards from what the shelf looks like at the end of the transformation.
“We’ve done a lot of work around the look and feel in-store,” he adds. “As we’ve evolved the wine transformation, we’ve created themes and shopping missions that are over and above simply putting a better label on a bottle.
“We’ve created a family of Burgundies for instance – a Burgundy brand that we can trade throughout the Burgundy range, which we’ll launch at the end of this year or beginning of next.”
Rosé has also been a focus, with a “design transformation” scheduled to hit next month. And the retailer is championing English fizz, with growth up 38% in value terms year on year, and a new co-brand with Hattingley Valley under the Collection label.
The process has also seen some lines come to an end – such as the This Is brand – and Shaw has reduced the entry-level range to “retain the price points and drive efficiencies from a customer perspective”.
Through keeping stylistic references on the entry-level tier and creating a natural flow of trade-up to Classics, Found, Expressions and Collection, Shaw says the range is now “more shoppable”, while the wines that fall in between will become much clearer. He gives the example of a red, white and rosé under a new Rioja brand.
Though wine takes up most of the shelf space, spirits are firmly in Shaw’s sights. M&S launched its 10-strong Distilled range last September, which he says has been “fantastically well received and traded really successfully” during the run-up to Christmas.
“We’ve done a lot of work in spirits and understanding particularly where branded spirits sit in our range versus own-label,” he explains. In line with wine, shoppers can expect a Collection range of spirits “keeping that continuity across the top tier” from September.
The range will evolve over time, Shaw says, and it will launch with a line-up that will also reference the name of the supplier. This range will start around the £25 mark, depending on the product.
Staying in spirits and M&S is well-versed in the pre-mixed cocktail world. Shaw mentions the recently launched Marksologist cans – a four-strong range of bar-strength cocktails including a Salted Caramel Espresso Martini and a Smoked Pineapple Daiquiri, packaged in 15cl cans with tactile, matt labels. The retailer is also rebranding all its cocktail cans from September in a “much more modern” interpretation.
As part of the canned cocktails proposition, low and no options will sit alongside the range, in the same livery. In fact, low and no’s transformation treatment is scheduled for June to September, and Shaw says that M&S can take the lead on low and no “because, outside of beer, there aren’t really brand leaders”.
At the Battersea store, an Enomatic machine houses the retailer’s alcohol-free wine range. Sparks card holders simply scan their cards to sample the products.
Elsewhere, Shaw reveals another innovation, with premium gifting sets due for launch in September. “We are a natural home for gifting,” he says of the retailer as a whole business. And while the gin globes are a famous gifting staple, Shaw hints that we can expect a lot more this Christmas.
Of the overall transformation, Shaw says he doesn’t have a specific target in terms of turnover – and he’s mindful of forthcoming duty headwinds – he says he wants to “continue growing market share at an accelerated rate over the coming years”.
“We want to shout about the range and drive footfall through the shop,” he adds.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Though we’re talking about all this in-store, there’s a lot that is going on behind the scenes.
Shaw says that, in terms of supply chain, the company has been working with Chester-based glass company Encirc, which will use hydrogen and green energy to cut carbon emissions, and with Les Grands Chais in France on alternative formats.
“We’re also working with Hillebrand Gori to create better stock management and working capital in our supply chain,” he explains.
“Because we’re moving to these strong partners, we’re not necessarily seeing the day-to-day stress of supply chain headwinds,” he adds.
Throughout the interview, Shaw emphasises the experience of his team and their commitment to the changes. They are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to BWS transformation at M&S.