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New Ordering System Streamlines Retail Purchases

SevenFifty Debuts in 30 States to Facilitate Retail Wine Orders
by Liza B. Zimmerman
October 10, 2016

Operators have long complained about the complex process of ordering wine. From dealing with multiple distributors and portfolios to difficult order interfaces the entire process has continued to be labor intensive.

The New York-based SevenFifty launched its ordering system several months ago and now currently works with 700 distributors representing roughly $20 billion in combined annual sales, according to a recent press release. "We’re currently working with roughly 60 percent of all wine and spirit distributors. This includes many of the biggest in the country, as well as boutique distributors with small, curated portfolios," confirmed Aaron Sherman, CEO and co-founder of SevenFifty.

The ordering system has roughly 30,000 buyers in all major metropolitan areas, averaging more than one million total searches per month. Retailers can access the platform for free and need only show a liquor license verification to register. Distributors cover the cost of the system by paying a monthly rate to publish online portfolios, advertise tasting events and keep track of products brought to specific accounts, according to a company press release.

Sherman also said that ordering wine "has been a confusing and overwhelming process for years.... [as] currently, buyers are forced to send their orders through different emails, text messages, and phone calls — we wanted to create a better solution." He said the SevenFifty system seeks to simplify the "fragmented manner in which orders are currently communicated to sales reps by consolidating the process onto a single platform."

Retail Feedback

A handful of operators who I spoke to also confirmed that the platform makes ordering wine less complex. Using the system, said Meg McNeill, general manager and buyer for the Brooklyn-based Dandelion Wine, "is easier, more streamlined, and allows less room for error." She has used it since it launched to order from multiple distributors. "We work with over 85 distributors and we only have about 600 SKUs, so SevenFifty helps streamline things immensely," she concluded.

"Going through everyone's price book would take so much time and when you're looking for a type of wine just going through books wouldn't show everything on the market," added Patrick Larson, the manager and buyer for Vinyl Wines on the Upper East Side of New York.

"It makes my job a lot easier in so many ways. One of the first I can remember is a bride coming to me asking for half bottles of Long Island white or Sparkling wine. I have no idea how I would track down such a special request without SevenFifty - perhaps calling every vineyard on the North Fork?" McNeill shared.

She added that the SevenFifty system is convenient for orders of all kinds, for instance if she knows that she wants "a Chablis on the shelf for less than $30, I can search for that, narrow it down to the distributors I already work with and generate a list to keep track. Or, at large portfolio tastings, rather than carry around a giant catalogue, I can make a list using SevenFifty on my phone to then check later when I'm back at the store and then place an order with my rep right from the same platform."

She added that most of her key distributors are in the system and "My reps are as busy as I am, and using seven fifty means I don't have to text or email or call them every time I have a price question. I can look up the pricing structure of each of the wines I need to order and then send the list directly through the website to my rep. I've heard from my salespeople that it works great for them too because they don't have to look up every product code to place my orders, SevenFifty just sends them with the order."

CEO Sherman noted that SevenFifty provides comprehensive online listings of distributor portfolios and an ordering tool that allows for fast and easy re-ordering of existing products in inventory." What is more, the process is streamlined, he said, "by enabling the buyer to create orders and instructions that can be sent to their reps in a few clicks."

An Analyst's Perspective

Two of my most trusted wine business analysts see the benefits of using SevenFifty from both a retail, and a wholesale, perspective. Barbara Insel, president and CEO of the St. Helena-based Stonebridge Research said that she has been have been fascinated by Seven-Fifty for some time. "It was started by restaurant people in New York who understand what was needed to make their lives easier and the restaurant people I know seem to like it."

Basically using SevenFifty replaces the various ordering systems that each wholesaler has so "there is one standardized, uniform ordering site for each wholesaler who uses it. And in theory, all the relevant product information besides pricing can also be accessed through SevenFifty, replacing various brochures, sales order books, price posting volumes, etc," added Christian Miller, proprietor of the Berkeley-based Full Glass Research.

"For the retailer, this should make the basic act of ordering wine more efficient [fewer wholesale websites to access or distributors to call] and easier because the format is uniform. In theory, it would also make comparison shopping much easier for retailers, provided the search engine is comprehensive and easier to use. If a restaurateur is thinking that he or she needs a wine priced at a specific price, A site like SevenFifty can generate a list of candidates for easy comparison by price, type, source, etc."

"For wholesalers, it seems like a two-edged sword. On one hand, it may put downward pressure on prices by making price comparisons within categories [and between wholesalers] easier. And if retailers start to use it more, it could diminish the influence that larger sales forces have by virtue of more frequent calls on more retailers," he continued.

"If seven fifty actually replaces ordering directly from wholesalers for a majority of volume or retailers, there could be some cost savings for wholesalers in terms of managing their ordering websites and customer service centers," concluded Miller.

Tailoring the System

The online ordering platform is also an order management system where buyers can select products to re-order and allows users to apply filters and search functions---such as vendor, appellation, country, raw material, vintage--to create customer distribution orders, said Sherman. He added that the site is constantly updated to keep pace with brand moves and pricing.

As more facets of the wine business shift to computers there is a risk of reducing some of the essential human contact and tasting experiences that are important to building a great wine selection. However the retailers to whom I spoke said that use of SevenFifty doesn't actually cut down on human interaction in the buying process.

"We taste all the time. In fact, it sometimes means that our tastings are more focused because I can research wines from individual portfolios ahead of appointments and request particular wines that we need. It means my reps don't have to be psychic all the time and guess randomly what might fit when there are particular holes to fill here," said McNeil.

System use "doesn't effect physical human interaction. Most ordering is done through emails and phone calls. By seeing a variety of wholesalers listed you find people you wouldn't necessarily have worked with and instead of being cold called you can do your research before reaching out," added Larson.

"I love being able to leverage technology to make my life and my job easier. A web interface that's cleanly designed, easy to navigate and chock-full of information at my fingertips at all hours of the day [or night] was welcome," said Jared C. Sadoian, bar manager at The Hawthorne restaurant in Boston.

He added that, "I never really understood my industry peers who call in orders during the day, leave voicemail orders, or worse, send a paragraph-length text message to their sales representative with their ordering needs. It's nearly impossible to track, easy for mistakes to be made, and puts you in a disadvantage if you have a lot to do during the day."

He added that one of his favorite SevenFifty features is lists. "I can create and update a list of exactly the products I normally buy for, say, my current wine by the glass program," he shared. "Keeping track of past orders as well is a useful feature that helps me track what I've purchased and understand my own ordering patterns. Having products all under one, searchable system makes it easy to build an order ....and consolidates the ordering information."

It looks as though greater use of this type of ordering technology may continue to speed up and simplify the wine business for both retailers and distributors.

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