RN What is Crown Cash & Carry and what does it provide to independent retailers?

RJ Crown Cash & Carry is a wholesaler based in South Ruislip, London, that trades in beer, wine and spirits, including a large premium range – which is what we are known for – alongside soft drinks and tobacco. 

We aim to keep the prices as competitive as possible, and as a result, we have some retailers that come all the way from Scotland to buy from us.

You stock quite a few premium alcohol lines – what is the bestseller at the moment?

Vodka is in growth, and it’s an expanding category within traditional retail, with suppliers constantly launching new lines.

Within this, a lot more shoppers are looking for premium lines, especially if they are planning a big night in and want to impress their guests. They might be drinking less overall, but the brands they are purchasing are more premium; Grey Goose is a big seller for us.

Gin is another spirit in growth, and is something we have benefitted from. Hendrick’s, Bombay Sapphire and Tanqueray are doing particularly well in this category.

In the rum sub-category, spiced and flavour varieties are leading sales – Sailor Jerry is a big seller for us. Similarly, at the budget end of the scale, we sell a ridiculous amount of Captain Morgan every week. The brand is iconic and has been around for years. 

What are the biggest trends in premium alcohol?

Independents should have a range of different-sized bottles. For example, during the week, consumers don’t want to open a large bottle of wine – often to end up wasting it – they want a smaller option.

On weekdays, they will tend to stick to core and budget brands, while on the weekend, they are more likely to indulge. Tailor your displays to reflect this; I’d recommend displaying 20cl and 35cl bottles of brands like Cîroc.

It’s important retailers follow a ‘good, better and best’ model in stores, over-indexing on the
premium lines. Also, keep an eye out for brands that are investing in marketing, such as working with influencers and celebrities to push products.

Last year, when Diageo launched its limited-edition Moschino bottle, it went viral on social media and retailers came to us to ask if we were stocking it – don’t underestimate the power of digital marketing.

What are the most profitable areas in premium alcohol?

Most retailers work on a 30% margin in alcohol, but the biggest margins are in aged whisky. The more aged the whisky, the more it costs, and the more profit the retailer can make on it.

Retailers are often afraid to invest in aged whisky at the risk of it not selling, but you won’t know until you try. As mentioned, people are willing to spend a little more for a better-quality product, so they’ll be attracted to an aged whisky, even if they just know you stock it.

Ultra-premium brands also offer great margins. One of our bestselling lines at the end of last year was Cîroc Black Raspberry, and this year, Cîroc Summer Watermelon has done exceptionally well.

What would be your top tips for independent retailers for merchandising premium alcohol? 

True off-licences are hard to come across now as most of them have turned into convenience stores, so to make it easier for those coming in just for alcohol, have a streamlined range in store so they can find what they are looking for faster.

Also, to help point them in the right direction, look for brands that have done well with their activation, as Pernod Ricard did with pushing its signature serve – Jameson, Ginger & Lime. Work with suppliers like this to create your own display.