by Kevin Coupe

This is what I would call a win-win. There was a great lesson in persuasive retailing, and it took place at a wine tasting.

I was out in Northern California last week for a speaking engagement, and an MNB friend, Phil Costello of The Performance Group, invited me to join him at a wine tasting. I’m no fool, so of course I said yes.

The event was at a terrific store in Pleasanton called The Wine Steward, where Phil, his wife Lauri, and a group of friends and colleagues, to taste some wonderful wines, including the 2015 Pascal Jolivet ‘Le Chene Marchand’ Sancerre, the 2013 Sixto ‘Uncovered’ Chardonnay from Washington State, and the 2014 Gran Moraine Pinot Noir from Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

It wasn’t just tasting. We learned a lot about the wines, and both smelled and tasted them in different glasses … it was a real and shared education. (Pictures below.)

But I found myself thinking that it is a shame that this kind of education often only takes place in really good wine stores or exceptional wine departments of progressive supermarkets (like, say, Dorothy Lane Market).

Now, wine deserves this kinds of attention, because it is a complex category that most of us don’t understand. But I wonder what would happen if retailers - looking to differentiate themselves from each other, and from online options - decided to invest in some educational efforts elsewhere in the store. And not just in the fresh departments; it’d be fascinating if there were folks in the aisles who knew about the products being sold there, could offer tastings and advice, and serve as a resource for their customers.

It wouldn’t be exactly the same, of course. Wine is a special category. But it seems to me that there is an Eye-Opening opportunity here for stores to turn the conventional into the exceptional.

One other thing. The Wine Steward has a series of wine clubs with a variety of emphases, all designed to further its educational efforts, which translates into stronger relationships with its shoppers, which also means higher sales numbers.

In other words, actions that turn into actionable data that actually is acted upon.

Like I said, a win-win.