Advintage Wines | COVID advantage for Advintage

Hawke’s Bay-based online wine merchant Advintage is toasting a record-breaking year after locked-down Kiwis flocked to the web for their wine fix.
The business sold huge volumes during the Covid 19-forced lockdown – peaking at 1000 cases of wine a day, says owner Mac Macpherson.
“People had the chance to explore more and try different online outlets – we were one of the better-known ones. Covid was so good for us in so many ways; it won us so many friends.”
Advintage’s established strength as an online retailer came to the fore, he says. “We were already set up to do online in volume. It was business as usual, just more of it.”
Mac, originally a marketer by profession, set up the firm in 1999 to indulge his passion for wine after the sale of his global communications technology start-up. It was on online business from day one – when consumers were still cagey about using credit cards on the web.
Today, online purchases comprise between 60 and 65 per cent of total sales. The remainder are made through Advintage’s store in Havelock North, with many of those purchases are driven by the business’ thrice-weekly email bulletins advertising its trademark big sales. 
Advintage delivers wines from the top to the toe of the country and has a strong following in the rural community courtesy of a marketing partnership with major buying group Farmlands. The business prides itself on the speedy delivery of “many thousands of cases” each month.
Advintage, which has 11 staff, continues to grow – with revenue increasing 30 percent from 2019 to 2020, Mac says.
“People aren’t travelling, they’re socialising more at home and there’s a real appeal in buying off small, local businesses.”
The Covid-fueled growth in online alcohol sales emboldened the retailer to add spirits to its range in October - a move led by Mac’s son, Will, who returned to New Zealand last year.
“We always knew there was high demand for spirits, and it was always an obvious thing to do to increase the business.  It’s been very successful and it’s doing better than budget in terms of sales.”
Meanwhile, Mac’s daughter Grace plans to introduce a range of natural wines – wines that have had minimal chemical intervention in their production – to Advintage’s shelves.  “It’s been a huge growth market internationally.”
Moore Markhams Hawkes Bay director Hamish Pringle played a key role in the launch of the liquor side of the business, offering sound strategic advice, Mac says.
“We get very good, fast, friendly and professional service. Hamish is very down-to-earth; he makes things very easy to understand.”
Hamish helped the business navigate the fine print of government regulations and subsidies during the lockdown, Mac says. Those subsidies were happily repaid when it became apparent that sales were actually increasing.
The majority of wine drinkers buy at supermarkets and they’re missing out, Mac says.
“Just look at what’s in the big liquor chains and grocery stores, it’s a very plain, vanilla view on what wine is. Our store is the opposite.”
Wine subscription models have become popular in a “time-poor” society, Mac says, but Advintage – which puts together pre-mixed cases to suit various tastes – is very competitive on value and product knowledge. 
Advintage’s employees taste its wines so they can talk to customers about them, and longer serving team members have sampled most of the 1000-odd bottles in store. 
People often mistakenly assume that fine wine means big dollars, he says. But his business “hangs its hat” on its $10 to $20 wine range.
“We get more excited about discovering a great $16 bottle of chardonnay than we do about discovering a great $50 bottle of Syrah. That chardonnay will make a lot of people happy, and that’s what drives our business.”