1.1 Definition and scope of study
A wine bar is a hospitality establishment which specialises in selling wine by the bottle(s) but also offers the possibility of seated tastings by the glass often accompanied by food.
The wine bar is not a new phenomenon in Italy, starting out hundreds of years ago as ‘Vini e Oli’ establishments (Wine and Oil). Today, large distribution centres such as supermarkets and specialised alcohol stores and restaurants hold around 80% of the wine market share, this has been the case for a number of decades. Therefore wine sellers had to adapt and start a new business model in the form of the wine bar.
Over the past 5 years the wine bar market in Italy, which is locally known as enoteca, has seen a resounding and steady growth (+13% cumulative growth from 2015-2020. Today the number of wine bars in Italy surpass 7.300, +4% than 5 years ago. Over five consecutive holiday seasons wine bars have increased their sales of up to 20%.
The wine bar market is prevalent throughout the whole geography of the peninsula but is concentrated in different regions. Lombardy has 982 wine bar establishments, being the region with the most. In terms of metropolitan areas Rome counts 345 (+35% compared to 10 years prior), followed by Naples at 221. Milan rounds off the podium with 141 (+5% from last year, and +72% from a decade ago). Florence, Genova, Venice, Palermo and Bologna all count more than 50 wine bars each. Women entrepreneurs count 27% of establishment heads while only 11% under 25. This market directly employs 8000 individuals (exclusively in store personnel), averaging a little over 1 person per wine bar (+10% over the last five years)
Deeper insights regarding this market can be extrapolated by examining Vinarius, the largest consortium/association of wine bars in Italy (over 120). Wine bars with annual revenue of up to €350K and between 1-2 employees have seen their average revenue increase by around 15% over the last 5 years.
While e-commerce initially posed a threat to wine bars, they have adapted and most include an online order option as well as delivery. Tannico, the largest online distributor for wine bars recorded a 40% growth in online orders from 2018 (10% of online orders at wine bars are destined for export). While B2C sales make up around 97% of transactions, B2B dealings have increased in the last few years.
Wine bars, being part of the hospitality/services sector, are highly dependents on Italy’s huge tourism industry, and more importantly of the eno-tourism which counts for $3 billion per year. Wine bars were not spared by the pandemic. As per a study conducted by Associazione delle Enoteche Italiane (Italian Wine Bar Association), 22% of wine bars decided to close, 25% decided to close but to maintain online orders and deliveries while 53% decided to stay open. 2020 represented a loss between 50-80% of business for wine bars in Italy. Deliveries increased by 35% and pick up orders by 66% during the pandemic.
The 1L wine consumer does not exist in Italy anymore as it did in the post war year (until 1990s). Nowadays, consumers are less attached to one product and more inclined to vary their choices according to the time they have to drink the wine - a dinner, an aperitif - and the pairings. Young people, too, are nonchalant when faced with the wide variety of wines available in wine shops today and are inclined to change labels often in order to taste as many new things as possible. Today's customers are looking for greater depth of offer and more information about the labels they buy.
With economic recovery and returns to previous tourism levels the wine bar market should have no trouble in bouncing back. There are domestic positive signals regarding this with sommelier course and wine festival attendances booming in the last 2 years.
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