DEFINITION – Here comes the big day, when we will finally be able to have a drink on the terrace with our loved ones. From this Wednesday, May 19, the French were able to enjoy certain places and activities that were previously closed to them. A crucial step in deconfinement for the catering industry, even if one sector did not wait for this moment to experience a major boom: that of wine cellars.
Wine merchants have experienced an increase of 10 to 20% in their sales during this Covid period, according to Nathalie Viet, general secretary of the union of professional wine merchants, contacted by The Parisian. In March, the Nicolas group observed an increase in sales of 20 to 25%.
“Between confinements, and especially last summer, I noticed a positive development, with a lot more attendance than in other years. We also shot really well during the end of the year celebrations ”, rejoices Mathieu, manager of a wine cellar in Occitania. He estimates that his sales over one year have climbed 15 to 20%.
New customers, better average basket
Noémie Lavigne is director of “La Vinothèque” in Bordeaux. For its part, the “physical” store did not benefit from the economic boom, because it is located in a tourist area, where the vast majority of other businesses were closed for long periods. In contrast, the online store, a site well established in the industry for more than ten years, is expected to experience a 25-30% increase in sales this year.
Same story with Nicolas Pettier, manager of the “Caves de Joseph” in Rennes, a place that has remained open as an essential business, who believes he has “suffered less from the crisis than other businesses”. They all seem to make the same two observations: a new clientele has visited the wine cellars; and the average basket has increased.
“We have a good established clientele, but we have reached a little more the 18-25 year olds, who have perhaps realized the importance of having local shops. The average basket has increased and diversified. For example, we had to renew our ‘wines for friends’, those which are in the range of 5 to 15 euros ”, explains Nicolas Pettier.
“After each government announcement, we noticed larger orders,” points out Noémie Lavigne. “In the baskets, there are wines that are out of the ordinary, and more diversity. We also took the opportunity to look for other references and unearth new labels ”, continues the director.
Meal at home
One of the reasons for explaining these findings obviously resides in the closure of bars and restaurants, forcing consumers wishing to find themselves organizing meals at home. “When we have a delivery order of 24 bottles on a Friday evening, our client does not hide from us that he is having a party at nine or ten, admits Baptiste. But we should not blame them. Most of the time, these are evenings with a maximum of six ”, explains Baptiste Léger, wine merchant at Nicolas in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, contacted by The Parisian.
“Most people spend their holiday meals with friends, family, at home, and since we all eat at home, I think they need to find the variety that we have at a restaurant. They took the opportunity to taste different wines, because the discovery is part of the pleasure ”, replies Noémie Lavigne.
Another factor that may have come into play: the budget. The French spared more than 85 billion euros just between March and July 2020, between the first confinement and the first weeks of deconfinement which preceded the summer vacation. L’Insee estimates for its part the gross savings of French households in 2020 at nearly 318 billion euros. That is almost more than 100 billion in a year. And when we are used to spending part of this budget in bars and restaurants, why not turn to wine shops that have remained open? “We had more attendance last summer because the French went abroad less. And since they stayed longer than usual at home, they had a little more money to spend, ”notes Mathieu.
A 19 never expected
According to him, wine cellars have also benefited from the “local shops” effect. “I met new people, who had never been to the wine merchant before, and I made new customers. With all the campaigns for local shops, perhaps consumers have had some awareness and have gone to the wine merchant in the area, ”he suggests.
So, after this strangely exceptional year, how do they see the reopening of May 19? Théo Pourriat, co-founder of Septime in Paris, seems to be waiting for nothing. And for good reason, the wine cellar that accompanies the well-known restaurant in the 11th arrondissement of the capital has not experienced the same growth as its counterparts. “We discovered that we were seen as a wine bar rather than a cellar, and the year was not at all good. Only regulars came to see us to support us, ”he regrets. So for this first day of reopening, they installed a terrace outside the cellar: “we are impatiently awaiting it, it has been a long time,” he says.
Unlike him, Mathieu expresses his main concern, namely that the French are abandoning the wine cellar to devote themselves again to the terraces. “I think we risk finding the same mode of consumption as before the crisis, but I hope that the development will remain positive, and that new customers will gain loyalty,” he tempers.
But overall, this stage of containment seems to be expected by wine merchants as well as by the general population. “We are looking forward to it for the store,” says Noémie Lavigne. “Of course there is the risk that people will go to bars rather than to us. But with the return of fine weather and barbecues, there will be something for everyone! ”
See also on Then24: “Not all terraces will open”: before May 19, the cautious enthusiasm of restaurateurs