Business Monday

What I learned in the wine aisle at Trader Joe’s

The Trader Joe's in Pincrest, shown in this file photo, opened in October of 2013. The grocer will open a location in Davie in late 2015 or early 2016.
The Trader Joe's in Pincrest, shown in this file photo, opened in October of 2013. The grocer will open a location in Davie in late 2015 or early 2016. Miami Herald Staff

I enjoy drinking wine. But I’m not good at remembering the names of wines I like. And I have no idea which years were particularly good for one grape or another.

So I’m lost in the wine aisle of my local grocery store. Who knows why the 2011 from Argentina is worth $10 more than the 2014 from Chile? I prefer red to white, and I’m partial to California because I used to live there.

Beyond those guidelines, I buy on price. For weekday wines to accompany dinner and relaxing in front of the TV, I look at bottles in the $9.99 to $12.99 range. I gravitate toward what’s on sale; and I’m a sucker for BOGO.

I’ll spend a few dollars more for Friday night because we linger over dinner longer. If friends are coming over, I’ll go to the $18.99 to $21.99 range because that seems respectable. And if it’s a gift, or we’ve been invited to a friend’s home, I’ll look for a cool, artsy label on the top shelf and go as high as — gulp — $39.99.

But I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s about my willingness to pay, not about wine regions or vintages or pairings with the other items in my grocery cart. Every week, I resolve to pay more attention to the names of wines I like, or get an app for my iPhone so I can have more guidance in the wine aisle at the grocery store. But I never do.

Then I made a pilgrimage to Trader Joe’s, the holy of holies when it comes to grocery stores, and I learned some lessons about selling wine that I think are applicable to all businesses.

I went to see what the fuss was about. My brother, who lives in San Jose, California, says that no matter where he is, he knows the way to the closest TJ’s. My sister-in-law has been known to drive from Miami to Naples on a Trader Joe’s run. And my daughter’s devotion borders on militancy.

So I braved the traffic on I-95 and U.S. 1 to get from Miami Beach to Pinecrest. When I arrived, there was a line to get into the parking lot, so I risked having my car towed by parking at a neighboring commercial establishment.

I was skeptical, but I came away a convert, at least when it comes wine. Trader Joe’s does more than just put wine on their shelves. They add a small, whimsical placard with a delicious description of each wine.

It was easy to choose one $9.99 bottle described as a “luscious red with berry aromas, cherry and plum flavors” and another that was “smooth and zesty, with rich flavors of cherry, raspberry and blackberry with a long finish.”

I grabbed an $11.99 bottle because it was “elegant and sexy.” And I felt confident spending more for Friday night’s wine. After all, who could resist “aromas of ripe berries, cranberry and candy apple with a silky texture.”

I even saw bottles that I recognized from my local grocery store. But who knew that one was “aged in oak for 14 months?” Or that another was “wonderfully complex, spicy, earthy and upfront?” All of the sudden, I liked them much more.

So what’s the lesson for business owners? Don’t let price be the sole differentiator of your products. Tell a fun, engaging story to help guide your customers’ purchase decision. You’ll sell more and at higher prices.

If you need further inspiration, head over to the wine department at Trader Joe’s. But go on a weekday. You’ll stand a better chance of finding a parking space.

Adam Snitzer is a revenue strategy expert and president of Peak Revenue Performance, a consulting firm that specializes in designing and executing innovative pricing strategies. He can be reached at adam@peakrevenueperformance.com, or via the company’s website at PeakRevenuePerformance.com.

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