I hate half-price wines and would like to see the back of them

business of wine

I hate half-price wines and would like to see the back of them

I hate half-price wines.

Of course, there’s nothing new about discounting being used to sell wine.
Many wine brands are priced with a view to being promoted. The wine might be listed at £6.99 and two or three times a year be discounted to £4.99.

Typically, the producer will agree to fund some or all of this promotion, so the retailer doesn’t take too much of a margin hit. In some cases these wines justify their off-promotion asking price.

Then there are the increasingly popular global 25% off the whole wine range offers (in many cases dependent on purchasing 6 or more bottles). In this case the retailer might get the larger producers to contribute, but not the smaller ones (this would be too complex). This is clearly good news for consumers, but perhaps bad news for those producers who will end up getting less for their wines.

My problem is with ‘half-price’ wine.

Half-priced wines are becoming a regular fixture in some supermarkets. And I can’t think of any cases where the consumer is getting a bargain.
These half priced wines are almost always brands specially created to be listed at an abnormally high price with a view to being offered half-price. They’re known as trade drivers or tactical brands within the industry.

I think they are unethical. Immoral, even.

You just have to take a look at the wine that’s typically being sold at £4.99, half-priced from an initial price of £9.99. There’s a fundamental dishonesty in listing a wine that a supermarket will have paid less than a Euro for ex-cellars at £9.99. What if someone buys the wine at this price? They’ll have been royally ripped off.

Then there are the Champagne tactical brands. They are made-up, soft brands on the shelf at say £26, with a view to being sold on promotion at £13. Almost all supermarkets have these. They are deeply dishonest wines.

These illusory deep discounts may make money for the supermarket, but they are bad for wine and bad for the consumer. They may sell well (do they?), but their success will cannibalise sales of off-promotion wines, making it harder for honest wines to keep their listings.

I would like to see supermarkets do the right thing and stop selling these half-price tactical brands. I’d also like to see brand owners act in a less cynical manner and stop developing them.

10 Comments on I hate half-price wines and would like to see the back of them
wine journalist and flavour obsessive

10 thoughts on “I hate half-price wines and would like to see the back of them

  1. Hear hear!

    The only genuine discount is where the retailer takes a hit on the margin.

    A threshhold on the amount of promotional money demanded of producers by large retailers (like £0!) would assist. (“Give me £x,000 or we don’t stock your brand” – that’s not promotional, that’s racketeering!)

    I do wish that merchants & supermarkets would take on a ‘what you see is what you get’ approach. Working in the business I clearly have a vested interest, but even permanent 1-bottle vs 2-bottle prices are disingenuous. The problem is that while the intelligent consumer knows all this, the majority who are mystified by wine as a concept, but who enjoy drinking it, only have price to go on, and that is why they continue to get taken for a ride by supermarkets and chains.

  2. I totally agree with you Jamie. I hate them too because I think they keep the customer in the dull £5 price bracket in a double-barreled shot. First the consumer thinks they are getting wine at half price and second, they can’t see the point of spending £10 on a wine as it tastes the same – because it’s only £10 so the retailer can discount it to £5. The whole game leads to people having no clue as to how much a wine is really worth and generally doubting the value of anything over $5.

  3. The reality is that most of these wines are not worth anything close to their RRP (as shown in the photo). It may list as this price for a few weeks and then drop to 50% for the next 10 weeks.

    It’s just outright deception as the RRP is not a real price. Unfortunately the majority of consumers can’t be bothered to walk around the corner to the wine merchant for something different or interesting.

  4. In a wine producing country, where the top 5 wineries produce over 60% of all wine, and the country only has two supermarket chains, supermarkets price fix and also follow the practices described above.
    It’s harder for the consumer to know whether they’re being ripped off. New Zealand has seen a proliferation of wine labels since 2008 to soak up the poor quality wine glut and an explosion of wine deals such as described.
    I too would like to see an end to such unethical retailing but in a society that ‘knows the price of everything and the value of nothing’ I feel we haven’t seen the end of this practice.
    Fortunately the very small, but great quality, 2012 vintage of New Zealand wine may see a reduction of 2nd and 3rd tier wine labels and a reduction in the faceless labels of bulk wine buys.

  5. In most developed wine markets this promo pricing model is pandemic within not only Grocery but now showing amongst some online wine promos. There is meant to be legislative measures (within NZ for instance) which protect the consumer from this type of messaging but they are unfortunately not policed enough.

    There seem to be 2 culprits, the obvious being the seller who choses only to trade off price rather than knowledge, advice and Customer Service. The other is the producer who allows it to happen and builds wines to align accordingly.

    Put all this aside, the catastrophic impact of this for the Consumer is what we should all be concerned with. Unfortunately the retail pricing strategies orchestrated by both the larger Grocers and bigger wine producers has now become a default ‘Quality’ gauge for the everyday wine purchase. Not only is the seller running out of attractive offers but the participating Wine Producer is making wine to align to the Promo rather than the everyday retail shelf ticket. This meaning the wines true quality is more aligned to the promo price than the stated headline price.

    The Consumer now predominantly relies on false indicators (price) to gauge a wines quality. Quality is something that must be comparable and does not exist on its own. Once price is no longer a reliable trigger for wine quality the mainstream retail segment is void of integrity and purchase reward. Combine this with the expanding use of ‘marginal’ wine competitions, commentator awards and independent reviews. This makes for a rather scary platform to rely on which for most consumers is a segment already too complex and intimidating.

    There is no answer or magical wand that can eliminate this in the short term. The one thing we must always keep in the back of our mind is the very thing which separates wine from most commodities, Choice! We the consumer must start to make an informed choice when purchasing wine. If a wine is 1/2 price ask why!!

  6. Supermarket wine selections in the UK are universally poor in any event (with perhaps Waitrose being the sole exception). I moved house at the end of last year and Sainsbury’s became my local regular shop. It has taken me about 2 months to exhaust their wine selection – most of it is dross I wouldn’t ever drink, with a large splatter of these 50% off discounts, other brands like Villa Maria, McGuigans, Wolf Blass etc that are invariably on special most of the time and their own range of wines, some of which appear to have been bottled in the UK. No effort to present an interesting selection and, for the reasons Jamie sets out, creating a false impression of what wines are actually worth.

    The only upside is that the supermarkets’ policies are making customers like me spend much more with the independents and online specialists, who are much more deserving of our cash.

  7. I wonder how much this discounting goes on with other products and how much we “winoes” fall for them. For the vast majority of wine drinkers in this country price is the main determinant of their buying choice and these offers fit neatly into our buying psychology. Some will feel happy thinking they have a half price bargain, some will feel happy paying a premium for a “natural”/”organic”/”home grown”/”insert trendy marketing term here” product.

    I guess the big issue here though is the downright dishonesty of this discounting, but until we stop falling for it, or it becomes outlawed, it will continue.

  8. Supermarkets need to compete with each other, and these half price wines drive ASTONISHING volumes, even if they are only worth the promoted price. Any supermarket stopping this on a stand-alone basis would be commiting commercial suicide, so it’s unrealistic to expect it to stop. With minimum pricing perhaps there may be legislation on the horizon but one suspects it’s a long way off. In any case the current minimum price of 40p per unit would place the cheapest wines in the £3.60 -£4.00 category, which would not affect the wine in question. Indeed it will hardly affect wine at all, and is aimed at the 2 litre strong cider type drinks

  9. I think nobody like being dishonest. Many producers are following the practice because they can’t change it.
    If they don’t follow, their business would go to sleep or grave. To be a live bad one, or to be a dead good one. Many would chose the former. So they can’t be blamed. Then some may put the gun at the one who firstly do this It would be a hard work to find out the starter. Even we find him, he might actually didn’t expect it would hurt so many group, he might has finished and the practice was exaggerated by the followers.

    Now maybe rules are need to be established and followed. It would help a lot. But it would only works on those who respect rules.There’s always human that’s good at creating evils and have strong shield getting himself away from being punished. We can’t clear the market thoroughly.

    To root up the bad things we’re facing, we definitely need God’s help; And God’s always being too busy to attend.
    It’s looks like a little complicated conflict between humanity and money .Everyone should make decisions they think right. or good. But what’s right, what’s wrong… I totally loose the principle. Someone come to save me pls.

    God Bless.

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