Point-and-click service for restaurants, shops available in 12 states
[caption id="attachment_12491" align="alignright" width="288" caption="Inertia's WineREvolution e-commerce system"][/caption]
NAPA – Inertia Beverage Group reached a milestone this month toward its goal of simplifying the trade wine buying process to the point-and-click convenience U.S. consumers in many states have enjoyed in the past several years.
In 112-degree weather on July 14, a refrigerated truck rolled up to Cave Creek Wines in Phoenix with wine from Santa Barbara producer Radog, an order placed and processed totally online via Inertia's Wine REvolution e-commerce system.
"This is the first indication that we have an alternate way for wineries to access the trade directly," said President and Chief Executive Officer Ted Jansen.
[caption id="attachment_12536" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="Bob and Lauren Ackerman"]
Inertia has been working on the trade side of direct-shipping since early 2006, when the company started beta-testing the model in California and New York. Yet a "last mile" delivery link between a local warehouse and trade buyer that is on par with deliveries from wholesalers has been a remaining key to unlocking winery acceptance of the direct-to-trade program, he said.
Such service includes temperature control and an understanding of requirements for delivery times so that cases don't arrive at inconvenient times, such as the dinner rush at a restaurant.
Also new to the direct-to-trade process is automatic order processing online. Up to now, a trade account would have to call the winery to place the order then call Inertia as the marketing agent to fulfill the order.
In April the company launched a test Internet portal for store-like ordering for the trade. Now 35 of the nearly 300 wineries that use Inertia's services, which include regulatory compliance and e-commerce Web sites, now employ Inertia as their direct-to-trade marketing agent, according to Mr. Jansen.
Currently, Inertia offers self-distribution or in-state distributor arrangements for direct-to-trade fulfillment in 12 states: Arizona, California, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and Wyoming. The company is working on such access to 10 more states, with three more possible this year.
Not being tied to allocation requirements from wholesalers to be in certain markets has helped 8,000-case-a-year Brook Winery in Oregon expand into California, Florida and now Arizona via direct-to-trade shipments, according to General Manager Janie Brooks Heuck. Since starting direct-to-trade service last year, such sales have grown from 3 percent of revenue to 10 percent, equal with direct-to-consumer sales through the appointment-only tasting room and the Web site. The brand currently is in distribution in 10 states.
"I've gotten feedback that if they are interested in getting my product they can get mine without anything attached to it and as little or as much as they want," Ms. Heuck said.
That flexibility has helped keep orders flowing in a tough economy, and being able to offer trade accounts lower wholesale pricing has helped the winery maintain pricing for whites at $11 to $16 a bottle and most pinot noir selections at $13 to $24.
Though Inertia now offers completely automated trade ordering, Ms. Heuck said she likes the opportunity to build personal relationships with trade accounts by talking to them on the phone to log orders. Spot trade ordering also has allowed her to offer special wines for such orders, such as 92 cases of sweet riesling made this year.