Sep 06: After 3 years of Monopoly, Haryana reverting to awarding the Distribution License L1-BF to 8 companies for Re 1 crore each, has already resulted in a modern Covid-protected liquor and wine store with emphasis on hygiene, technology and variety. The Liquor Warehouse (TLW) opening doors on the MG Road Gurgaon a couple of weeks ago has the potential to become the best store in the North in coming months, writes Subhash Arora who visited the store after his Lockdown of 5 months
Haryana is known for experimenting in formulating the policies in the alcohol segment, vacillating from the best to the worst over the years. It had introduced Prohibition in the State in 1996 but withdrew it in less than 2 years. It entered Monopoly in Distribution in March 2017 but tried to break it by introducing Oligopoly after 2 years but failed due to alleged collusion between interested parties. It was only this year that it came out with firm hands and allotted 8 licenses at only Re. 1 Cr (Rs. 10 million) each with volume targets set for each distributor.
One of the licensees for L1- BF was Aralias Beverages Pvt Ltd. Which is a partnership between Amit Arora-owner of The Cellar- a retail store present at all the airports in Delhi, Shashank Sangal a big retailer in UP with years of experience and Sandip Parsan, Director of Ace Beveragez.
An idea born earlier
When and how did the idea germinate in their minds to open a Retail shop in Gurgaon, I asked Sandip, who is also a part of The Cellar for TLW-the modern Gurgaon Retail store, a partnership between ADS- producer of Royal Green popular whiskey sold in 17 states and is a strong emerging liquor company and The Cellar- An Airport Retail chain present at all the terminals and also voted Winner of the 'Best Retail Store in Delhi-NCR' at the first delWine Excellence Awards at Hotel Pullman in September 2016. ‘The idea to get the distribution license was in our mind for the last 3 years. But because of the monopolistic conditions we did not want to enter because our math did not favour entering the Monopoly business. This year we decided to take a leap when the distribution channels opened up. We can distribute for any importer interested in Haryana,’ he says.
The idea of Retail germinated this year. ‘In March-April when Covid problem caused the Lockdown, we put our heads together and surmised that the retail customers would change their buying pattern and would not like to go to crowded shops for their alcohol purchases. So we bid and got 4 shops including this one on M. G. Road, Gurgaon, Ambience Mall and Cyber City. Actual work has been going on for the last few months. ‘Our brief was to make it Covid-protected and use as much technology as possible for seamless operation and to give a pleasant experience for our customers.’
This is perhaps the reason why the store has already become popular within 2 weeks of its opening and with much of the wine and spirits label coming in every day as they are being registered. ‘When we are finished with fully loading the store, we will have about 250 wine labels though it will remain primary a liquor warehouse as the name suggests,’ concedes Sandip.
But TLW plans to keep labels of most importers including those of the biggies like Pernod Ricard and wines imported by Ace Beveragez. Ostensibly, it will stock labels from ADS Spirits in a big way but ‘I am looking after primarily the wine segment, especially the imported wines. In fact, there has been a big rush from the people coming in for wines-all through word-of-mouth. The selection is quite enviable and will get much wider in a couple of weeks, ‘ he says.
The store scores very high on this count. ‘In fact, the idea of modern retail store came to our mind because of Covid. We expected people to be fussy about social distancing and reckoned they would not like to visit crowded retail shops. The place has enough space inside and outside to make it practical for social distancing. The store is sanitized twice a day by a professional agency. As you enter, your temperature is taken. You have to sanitize your hands in a contact-less machine. Mask is a must to wear at all times in the store. Maximum crowd is between 5-9 pm. So I recommend to avoid the peak hours, if possible. Store is open 362 days a year 24*7.
One can pick up a trolley and walk around the store picking bottles- especially if you like to buy wine, whiskey, bear and Gin which is the most popular section for buyers.
Dedicated Wine Sommelier
You would like to buy wine but are intimidated by the variety? There is Prashant Tiwari, a professional Sommelier who has 20 years of experience in Maldives, US and Bali, in cruise ships and hospitality industry. He will guide you based on your budgets, tastes and style preferences. In fact, ‘the Store has an interesting programme- if you buy 6 bottles of super-premium wines, he can visit your residence for a private tutorial’, says Sandip: ‘this is one way to have people trade up drinking premium wines. We recently sold a Chateau Haut- Brion for Rs. 120,000! I didn’t even think we would have buyers for such expensive wines! We have sold 63 bottles of Sassicaia so far.’
This is quite understandable as the price is very reasonable at Rs. 27,000. The most expensive wines I could find during my visit was Chateau Kirwan 2012 (Second-Growth Bordeaux wine) at Rs. 15,000 though. ‘We will soon get premium wines like Gaja, Col d’Orcia and Tignanello etc. after the label registration is done.’ he says. One of the reasons that encouraged them to get into retail was also the reduced label registration of Rs. 5,000 in Haryana, he says. Compare it to the cost of Rs. 60,000 for the same in Delhi!
Price indiscipline in Haryana
One saw Jungle Raj in Haryana recently- especially in Gurgaon when Delhi government raised the Retail Price arbitrarily and immaturely by 75% of the MRP in May. The retailers went berserk and openly started exploiting the customers and charging heavy premiums with black-market being an open secret. They stopped issuing invoices for any alcohol product (shocking though it may sound).
Parsan says, ‘we are the first retail shop in Gurgaon which is actually giving the computerised invoice for every sale. In fact, we have engaged an outside billing service with 7 cashiers/computers to avoid anything shady. All the products have a price tag displayed and there are even electronic sign boards throughout the store, where prices of various products are displayed. We encourage customers to save the invoice for any complaint.’
The store is a boon for the ladies as they can drive to the store and park right in front with ample space or use valet parking in the adjoining lot. They can shop conveniently without any hassle, especially for wine as Sommelier Prashant is all ears and willing to guide. Wine section being in a separate corner, they don’t have to walk all over the store Sandip claims about 20% of the customers over the weekend are already women and their number is increasing.
Though wine section is smaller than I would like to see, I hope during expansion and more use of space, wine gets some more prominence. Gondolas to be placed during the next 2 weeks would provide some extra space on the floor- currently not utilized.
But the store would frequently have Offers for wines. In fact, there was one such offer for 3 days only from Sept 4-6 (Sunday) where one could pick up any 2 bottles (out of a range of Luis Felipe Edwards, Pedrera, AG or Indiosa (Indian) for Rs. 1200 instead of the regular price of Rs. 800 each. A few labels are available at these low prices.
There is a wide price range where you can get an Indian whiskey for as low as Rs. 200+ or Louis XIII Cognac at Rs. 250,000. Several new labels in whisky are proposed to be added soon. Within the next one month one can expect changed and addition of stocks and varieties.
Needless to say, this modern retail store has proper air-conditioning both in the front-end and the back-end with a huge space full of inventory linked to the computer system. Although Rajesh, the store manager could not give me figures and pattern of footfalls, he said it was part of the software and will soon have all such data. Clearly. He did say that 5-9 pm are the busiest and over the 3-day weekend they see a footfall of around a 1000. TLW- The Liquor Warehouse has the potential of becoming one of the top notch stores in its category in Gurgaon, and perhaps go on to become the best one in North India.
For related earlier Articles, visit:
New Haryana Excise moves from Monopoly to Oligopoly
Passing By: Luis Felipe Edwards Jr. of LFE Wines from Chile
Raising invoice on Sales may get Chandigarh Excise Rs. 96 Cr. more
Hotel Leela Ambience Gurugram- Koopman Koping with Haryana Excise Policy
High Court Rules Haryana Wine Policy not Monopolistic
Monopolistic Haryana Excise Liquor Policy for 2017-18
Stay Safe and maintain Social Distancing in your house or at #TLW@GM. And drink in Moderation.