BEVERAGE SUPERSTORE CHEERS PRIVATE LABEL

At Beverages and More, Walnut Creek, Calif., gourmet private label products have taken on the role of festive indulgence, a profitable complement to the stores' primary focus on wine, spirits and beer.The beverage superstore currently operates 20 stores, and has plans for new stores in Los Angeles, San Diego and the San Francisco Bay Area.According to Raymond Berger, vice president and merchandising

At Beverages and More, Walnut Creek, Calif., gourmet private label products have taken on the role of festive indulgence, a profitable complement to the stores' primary focus on wine, spirits and beer.

The beverage superstore currently operates 20 stores, and has plans for new stores in Los Angeles, San Diego and the San Francisco Bay Area.

According to Raymond Berger, vice president and merchandising manager for the chain, the expansion plan aims to add 20 new stores over the next four years.

As the chain grows, so does the commitment to quality private label grocery items in an effort to enhance the image of a one-stop party destination.

Since the company's inception, the goal has been to surpass the expectations of a conventional liquor store, providing a complete entertainment experience, said Berger.

In addition to the extensive selection of beer, wine and spirits, the retailer carries glassware and accessories, cigars and over 1,000 specialty food entries.

When the first store opened six years ago, high caliber private label options were virtually non-existent, explained Berger. A crude label splashed on some nuts and coffee was the extent of Beverages and More's private label program.

"Three years ago, we really began to plan in earnest," said Berger. "Not only in terms of a focus on private label, but also in terms of a graphics program to reinforce the image of our store, to create a branding identity for Beverages and More."

The growth of the private label specialty segment is evident in the development of the chain's line. Beverages and More brand products now represent 25% of the stockkeeping units for the packaged goods category, while accounting for 35% of sales.

The grocery assortment includes necessary party favors such as chips, pretzels, salsa and dips, and a large selection of mixed nuts. In the beverage department, soda and water is available in the chain's Coastal Fog label, as well as Bevmo Bar Blend drink mixes for margaritas and the like.

The food is presented in "food pods," small aisles situated between the wine and spirits in the center of the store, and private label grocery products are cross merchandised throughout the store, Berger told SN.

Although Berger does not foresee food items becoming destination purchases at his stores any time soon, private label grocery products have been very successful as add on items, and the chain plans to continue growing the line.