Welcome to the Jungle – The Survival Guide to Selling Wine in Manhattan
New York City is the most competitive fine wine market in the US. With more than 7,700* licensed on and off-premise outlets, almost every city block presents an opportunity to make a sale, but it’s an incredibly cut-throat market. If New York City is a concrete jungle, then Manhattan is the heart of its dense and tangled thicket.
For the glamor and glitz of a fine wine listing, or retail store shelf facing, it’s a grueling life for the “feet on the street” working to build and close sales. As Yvonne Gallo, VP of North East Sales for Broadbent Selections stated: “You need to be a certain kind of bad a** to work in Manhattan.”
So what makes it such a tough place for wine professionals?
Stakes are high and unpredictable.
All eyes are on the market, and there’s no shortage of cutthroat competition lined up to undercut that by-the-glass offer. So you must plan ahead, but also respond “in a New York minute” to immediate opportunities.
The work is physical.
A wine bag containing six bottles weighs approximately 30 pounds. Add a laptop, personal bag, an umbrella, or spare shoes, lugging more than 40lb a day for 12 hours is a reality. Four days a week. Every week.
You can walk miles for a sale.
Traffic congestion means mass transit and walking are often the most efficient way to get around. On average a rep can walk 8 to 10 miles a day to manage their territory, with that 30 to 40 pounds in tow.
Days Are Long.
The city is cost-prohibitive and living space comes at a premium. A three to four hour car or mass transit commute is the norm, which translates to 14+ hour workdays, leaving little time for family and friends.
Sales Support Tools Don’t Work.
Wine wheelie bags die on congested and overcrowded Manhattan streets, and most reps work from home with little room for sample bottles, POS or that special large-format offering.
Sales success is not entirely impossible, and here's 5 tips to help survive in the jungle:
1. Invest in Good Footwear.
Spending money on quality footwear is critical. Zack Kameron of Folio Fine Wine Partners exhausts five pairs of work shoes a year on his regular 8 to 12 mile daily route. For women, carrying flats and heels is the best way to navigate mass transit AND present at that last-minute “can’t miss” appointment.
2. Prioritize and Prepare for Change
For Gallo, planning is just as critical as managing change. With endless time demands and changing needs, seizing new opportunities while meeting company goals is a critical success factor.
3. Ditch the Wine Wheelie
Nicole Velez of Treasury Wine Estates lugs a 30lb wine bag up and down a five-floor Manhattan walkup and through cramped subway cars. She finds using a backpack a more compact and mobile alternative to the cumbersome wheel-along bag.
4. Moderate Your Intake – of Everything
Work-life “balance” is impossible, so remember to eat and drink in mindful quantities, know your limits and make smart decisions There will ALWAYS be more than you can manage. Always.
5. Stretch, Massage and Alleviate
Shoulders, feet and backs take a beating, so stretch, grab a foot massage, and always keep Advil or Aleve on hand to relieve the aches, pains and strains.
Despite the challenges, Manhattan remains one of the world’s truly great cities for wine. As Smadar Berlingeri of Monsieur Touton Selection shared: “When the physical and mental demands are set aside and the beauty and artistry of what’s poured in a glass truly connects with the buyer, that synergy is so gratifying you forget the rest. [It’s] a little like childbirth.”
So as you peruse the wine list in that new Manhattan hot-spot, spare a thought for the hard-working, determined sales representative who got it there. Chances are they are off making another sale while you sit down to relax.
Meet The Tribe:
Our community is only as strong as the company we keep, and here we meet some of the folks who make our profession so dynamic.
Founding Partner, Diaz Communications, Wine Marketing and Public Relations
Years In Wine Industry:
26 Years – After a successful career in FM radio broadcasting, my husband, Jose Diaz and I moved from Portland, Maine to Sonoma County. I segued into wine PR, working for The Hambrecht Wine Group, Barefoot Cellars, Robert Mondavi Winery, and Ironstone Vineyards. In 2001, I started Diaz Communications, and the following year Jose became my partner. We also started PS I Love You (advocacy for Petite Sirah), and the Association of African American Vintners.
My Biggest Challenge To Wellness:
Inheriting the “Clarke digestive DNA” is a family curse. Both my father and Uncle Joe (Clarke) had serious acid indigestive issues. Uncle Joe loved his heirloom tomatoes, more than any digestive aid, whereas my father used a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda, in an 8-ounce glass of water, to balance his heartburn. When I began to develop the Clarke heartburn syndrome, I followed in my father’s footsteps, and use a teaspoon of baking soda when I’ve been running hard and not taking time to digest well. I carry baking soda when I travel, and it also helps to whiten teeth after wine tasting.
How I Keep It Together To Stay Well:
I began practicing Transcendental Meditation in the early 70s. Next came yoga in 1975. I’ve continued with both to today. I was raised on organic foods and avoid fast foods, all oils – except for olive and coconut oils - and only purchase organic fruits and vegetables, along with humanely raised animal meat. When I’m dining out, I’m at the mercy of whatever a chef has purchased, and I come home to a baking soda cocktail, if my foods have been too acidic. I have to go to sleep with my body in balance, so the next day starts on the right side of the bed. A well-balanced body is like a well -balanced wine… It’s fine, in balance with TA and pH, and will have great ageability, if treated kindly.
What We’re Reading:
There's no shortage of wine stories and media inundating our IN Boxes. Here's what has piqued our interest this week.
Creating an International Language of Wine – Meininger’s Wine Business International
“Making headway through the labyrinth of Western wine language is hard enough for native speakers but in China, the task is made more difficult by the need for translation.”
Let’s Meet Up!
As work life has it, we are traveling over the next few months and would love to see you. Check out details on the Let's Meet Up! page over at A Balanced Glass.
Business of Wine & Food Tourism Conference in Cape Town, Oct. 17 (Cathy)
Wine Communicator of the Year Awards in Sydney, Nov. 6 (Rebecca)
Australian Women in Wine Symposium in Sydney, Nov. 16 (Rebecca)
Wine2Wine in Verona, Italy, Nov 26 to 27 (Rebecca)