As a nation, during lockdown we turned into digital warriors. Technology helped us navigate our lives as we shopped online, held virtual parties, connected with rellies. Zoom became ubiquitous, encompassing any kind of meeting held over a screen.
So it was no surprise that local wine merchant Advintage experienced a spike in demand during lockdown, setting a record while it was at it. While Advintage has a bricks and mortar store in Havelock North, its online operation leads the business.
Pre-COVID, the split in the business was approximately 65% online and 35% in store. Advintage owner John ‘Mac’ Macpherson says having an already successful online business certainly paid off during the months of lockdown.
“We experienced record monthly trading for those months – even with our retail store closed. We peaked at just over 1,000 cases packed and dispatched in one day, which is our all-time record! Our local courier team did a phenomenal job clearing high volumes each day and we managed to meet our same day dispatch target every shift. We have a national market and online sales were strong across the board, but in saying that, we did also see a significant spike in new Hawke’s Bay customers.”
Mac puts the increased demand down to the fact that with restaurants, bars and sports clubs closed, people were drinking more at home. “For many people it felt like it was holiday season for two months. I know that in our family bubble we were working hard during the day, but drinking significantly more than usual at night. It was a lot of fun I have to say.”
Post-COVID, the online/store split remains the same, but the store has seen increased sales, which Mac puts down to a groundswell of local support. Customers who discovered advintage.co.nz during lockdown are also staying with the business. Year to date sales are up 30% and new staff have been recruited to service the increased demand.
“It feels like the penny dropped in our local market. People tried us out over lockdown and enjoyed our wines. Word has spread quickly and it obviously is continuing to spread.”
Six weeks ago, Advintage introduced spirits into its offering as a response to customer demand.
“We always knew we could sell spirits successfully but we had resisted until now as a point of difference,” says Mac. “We enjoyed being a specialist wine-only store but, in the end, customer demand became too great. It’s early days of course but sales are beyond budget expectation. It’s been an easy transition. Exciting times.”
It is so often the extra mile that retailers go that sets them apart from each other.
On a personal note, I’d like to thank Advintage for doing just that. When the unthinkable happened during lockdown and my wine cupboard was bare, owner Pip Macpherson sensed the urgency and drove a case of red to me herself, depositing it on my driveway. Now that’s what I call amazing customer service.