Wine sale at Co-Op: good while it lasts

By Jen Glickel

Hyde Park residents and University students alike have recently discovered an economical way to quench their thirst for alcohol. Over the last three weeks, the Co-Op Market on 55th Street has been having a “Blow-Out Wine Sale,” selling thousands of bottles of wine for no more than $4.99 each.

After the 47th Street Co-Op closed in late January 2005, 700 cases of wine that had been sitting untouched on the shelves for three or four years were moved to the liquor department of the 55th Street store. These cases became part of the store’s Blow-Out sale, in which bottles of wine have been sold for either $2.99 or $4.99.

Relatively few have wondered why the bottles have been marked down rather than re-inventoried and sold at full price. Instead, Co-Op customers have rushed to purchase the inexpensive wine; 90 percent of the 700 cases have been sold in the last three weeks.

According to the Co-Op’s Wine Manager, Michael Newman, “Not only did we simply not have room for that much wine in the store, but also several power outages that occurred at the other store over the years left this wine sitting at high temperatures for periods of time,” Newman said. “Wine is heat-sensitive and what happens when it gets warmed up like that it accelerates the aging process.” He continued to explain that wine, which typically should be good for six or seven years, has its life expectancy halved when stored at temperatures approaching 75 degrees Fahrenheit, as the cases in question were.

“Given all of that, we had 700 cases of wine sitting here that were all nearing the end of their lives and we had nothing to do with them. So we figured that we would put them on sale to get rid of them all,” Newman explained.

The sale prices were determined based on the wine’s age, or vintage. Regardless of their original prices, wine bottles dating prior to the year 2000 were reduced to a sale price of $2.99 and those from between 2000 and 2002 were priced at $4.99. “It all had to do with the wines’ vintage,” Newman said. “The older they are, the less likely they are to be good.”

Although virtually all 700 cases have been sold in a brief period, the Co-Op is, in fact, losing money from the wine sale because of the substantially reduced prices. According to Newman, the goal of the sale was not necessarily to make a profit. “It’s better to sell the wine at sale price than to hold on to it at full price, have it not be purchased, and let it go bad,” he said.

Even regular customers of the Co-Op’s liquor department have been enticed by the Blow-Out sale. “I’ve seen customers who usually come in and buy a $15 or $20 bottle of wine coming in and buying three or four of the sale bottles instead,” Newman said. “Everyone loves a sale.”

University students who typically rely on the popular Kimbark Liquors have been drawn, if only temporarily, by the Co-Op’s sale. “I went to the Co-Op yesterday on my 21st birthday to buy a case of the sale wine since it was so cheap in comparison to Kimbark,” said third-year in the College Ian Sefferman.

Others have continued to shop at Kimbark Liquors, unaware of the Co-Op sale. Fourth-year in the College Mickey Passman commented, “Apparently the Co-Op hasn’t advertised their sale enough, because when I went to buy wine this morning I was unaware of the sale and went to Kimbark Liquors anyway—where I know I can always get good products and friendly service.”