SAM'S SPIKES ITS WINE SALES WITH BREAD

DALLAS -- In an unusual move for a membership warehouse club, two Sam's Club units in this market increased wine sales by cross merchandising several selections with specialty oils and breads.The promotion linked Vichon Mediterranean Merlot and Chardonnay, which are produced in France, with Consorzio flavored olive oils and La Madeleine specialty breads."It was a huge success," said David Beadle,

DALLAS -- In an unusual move for a membership warehouse club, two Sam's Club units in this market increased wine sales by cross merchandising several selections with specialty oils and breads.

The promotion linked Vichon Mediterranean Merlot and Chardonnay, which are produced in France, with Consorzio flavored olive oils and La Madeleine specialty breads.

"It was a huge success," said David Beadle, buyer for Sam's Club Dallas division, Carrollton, Texas.

Two pallets of wine, for a total of 112 cases, were set up at the front end of both units. They were located adjacent to tables that were highlighted with umbrellas. The tables held the breads and oils, which shoppers could sample free of charge. Texas state law prohibits the sampling of wine in a retail establishment, but professional wine stewards from a wine services agency were in the clubs hand-selling the wine during the event.

Cookbooks from Robert Mondavi of Robert Mondavi Winery and Michael Chiarello of Consorzio Oils were also sold at the display.

The event was so successful that Sam's Club, headquartered in Bentonville, Ark., is planning a similar promotion for Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican holiday that is widely celebrated in Texas as well.

"This was the first time we had done something like this," Beadle told SN. "We had a huge success of it and the follow-up sales have been incredible on all three items."

Beadle said the Dallas clubs were chosen for the promotion because they are among the top-volume clubs in the country; one of the clubs sold almost 60 cases during the 2.5-day event, which ran in October.

In another unusual move for a wholesale club, Sam's heavily advertised the promotion. About 750 postcards were mailed to members and prospective members alerting them to the promotion and letting them know that the cookbooks were being sold. Sam's also placed a mention of the tasting in the food section of local newspapers.

"We really went out of our way to make sure that people knew about it," Beadle said. "We had several people who actually brought the post card in with them. That was kind of exciting because we could see that they were responding to what we did."

Cindy Deutsch, corporate chain sales manager for retail at Robert Mondavi Winery, the Oakville, Calif.-based importer of the Vichon Mediterranean Wines label, said the winery is looking at doing a similar promotion with Sam's Club in California.

"Warehouse clubs often have 'road shows' where they showcase a single item, but our promotion was unique because it included gourmet bread, olive oil, cookbooks and wine," she said.