By Lisa Brown
ST. LOUIS (AP)
Total Wine and More, a Maryland-based liquor ‘superstore’ with more than 100 locations, is opening three St. Louis area stores this year as the retailer targets the Midwest for growth.
Total Wine’s expansive stores average 25,000 square feet of space with up to $3.5 million in wine, spirits and beer inventory. Its first area store, which also is the retailer’s first Missouri location, will open at 13887 Manchester Road in Town and Country on Thursday.
Total Wine stores at 90 Brentwood Promenade Court in Brentwood and 1709 Clarkson Road in Chesterfield are slated to open in late fall, according the chain, and it’s looking at other sites in the region for expansion.
Total Wine, which doesn’t have any Illinois locations, will join several other big-box liquor stores in the region. Locally based Randall’s, by comparison, uses about 18,000 square feet of a 24,000-square-foot building on Jefferson Avenue near Interstate 44, its largest of four stores; and Lukas Wine & Spirits’ Manchester Road store has 31,000 square feet of space.
David Trone, Total Wine’s founder and president, said in a phone interview that his frequent trips to Anheuser-Busch’s U.S. headquarters here over the years had drawn his interest to the region.
“I spend a fair amount of time in St. Louis, and I’m there fairly often talking to A-B executives,” he said. “There’s a good consumer base that we feel is underserved.”
Missouri is just one of several states Total Wine is looking at to expand, with new stores also planned in Indiana and Tennessee. By the end of 2015, Total Wine expects to be on track to grow to 130 superstores in 18 states with $2.1 billion in revenue.
Founded in 1991, Total Wine touts its prices, selection, customer service and store design as differentiators from rivals.
“We’re the Whole Foods of the alcoholic beverage business,” Trone said, adding that his company used the same interior design firm as the grocery chain, Charlotte, N.C.-based Little Diversified Architectural Consulting.
Distilled spirits are enjoying a surge in popularity, particularly “brown goods” such as bourbon.
Distilled spirits volume in the U.S. grew 2.2 percent last year to 210 million cases, according to the Distilled Spirits Council, a Washington-based trade group. The group estimates overall retail sales of distilled spirits in the U.S. is nearly $70 billion.
“The American public has gone back to its roots — bourbon, which used to dominate, in the last four to five years, we’ve seen rapid growth, ” the trade group’s chief economist, David Ozgo, said.
A surge in demand for spirits has led to retailers opening bigger package stores, he added.
“As the market has grown, it creates the opportunity for larger stores,” Ozgo said.
Total Wine’s entry in the market will give area businesses more retail shelf space and more locations for consumers to find local brands, according to the chain.In recent months, Total Wine reached out to craft breweries in the region and Missouri’s wineries to stock its new stores with local options.“Local is really crucial,” Trone said. “We want to have all the local beers, wine and spirits.”
Based on its consumer research, Total Wine says its customers spend 30 to 40 percent more time in their stores than in those belonging to competitors.
Some of those competitors are watching Total Wine’s expansion warily, however. George Randall, president and owner of Randall’s, owns a home in Phoenix that’s near a Total Wine store.
The original Randall’s liquor store opened in Fairview Heights in 1998, and later added stores in St. Louis, Manchester and unincorporated north St. Louis County.
Randall, who lives in the Metro East, said Total Wine was known for aggressively pricing popular alcohol brands such as Jim Beam at cost to attract customers and then pushing private label wines and other products that have higher profit margins.
Opening three sizable stores in the region will negatively impact retailers who don’t have the same buying power as Total Wine, Randall said, but it could be a boon for consumers who may see lower prices at other area retailers that sell alcohol.
“The competition is going to be fierce, and this Christmas, the pricing will be incredibly low,” Randall said.
Total Wine’s looming entry in the market is already making Randall consider reducing his company’s contributions to full-time employees’ 401(k) accounts and reduce bonuses.
“I have to anticipate a large impact from Total Wine,” Randall said.