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ARTICLE InspirationJune 24, 2014

Q&A: Selling locally and overseas: Nicks Wine Merchants

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Nicks Wine Merchants is a leading online wine retailer that sells a wide range of local and international wines and spirits. Since setting up its first website in 1994, e-commerce has made selling to both the local and overseas markets a reality, as one of its owners, Simon Chlebnikowski, explains.

How did Nicks Wine Merchants start?

"We began as a tiny grocery store, Nicks Groceries, in 1958 in East Doncaster, Victoria. By 1978 the business had transformed into a wine merchant. We did a print catalogue, which we mailed out to customers.

"In 1994 we started the online e-commerce business. Nicks Wine Merchants was one of the first businesses to go online and that happened because a professor from Monash University approached us and said: “I think your business would be perfect for the internet”. He set up the website partly as a trial and at no cost to us, so we had nothing to lose, although we paid him a commission on sales."

Why did Nicks Wine Merchants implement a SecurePay payment gateway?

"We developed a new website last year and the developers creating it used a shopping cart platform called Magento. They recommended we use SecurePay, which works well with that platform."

How has e-commerce helped Nicks Wine Merchants grow?

"We now have customers all over Australia, as well as overseas. We couldn’t rely just on local store traffic to survive. The web is a global network and we now get customers from all over the world. The growth in e-commerce has meant that we have gone from five bricks-and-mortar stores to just one.

"We don’t have to advertise anymore either, whereas 10 or 15 years ago we had to do a lot of advertising. We can’t rest on our laurels, though – staying ahead of the online competition and the supermarkets is always hard work."

Who are Nicks Wine Merchants’ target customers?

"Our market is people who are interested in premium wines and spirits. We post online wine reviews and have a scoring system on the website that helps attract people who are interested in wine.

"We also have one of the largest spirit collections in the Southern Hemisphere, with more than 300 single malt whiskies, 100 different gins and 100 different vodkas. We target the connoisseur customer with these; some people buy in bulk, others just buy one bottle."

What wines are the best online sellers for Nicks Wine Merchants?

"At this time of year, it would be the South Australian reds from places like Rutherglen and Heathcote. Shiraz is probably the most popular red wine and Chardonnay the most popular white."

Nicks Wine Merchants offers a wealth of expert information online – where do you find this content?

"We generate all our online content ourselves. We taste all our products and use our knowledge to review them. We have also created a free virtual online wine school, which educates our customers. The virtual online wine school has different sections such making wine, tasting wine and matching wine and food."

How do you differentiate Nicks Wine Merchants from other e-commerce wine retailers?

"Our knowledge separates us from the competition. We invest a lot of time-sharing that knowledge through online reviews and ratings. We also import a lot of wines from around the world ourselves, rather than going through other importers. We cut out the middleman, which minimises the cost of the product for customers."

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