MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The parking lot has been full ever since Total Wine and More opened for business about a month ago in Roseville, Minn.
With wide aisles, high ceilings and neatly stacked shelves, Total Wine feels more like its big box brethren than a traditional liquor store.
Which is exactly what president David Trone was going for.
“Best Buy, certainly. Home Depot, certainly. But probably most importantly, Whole Foods,” said Trone, while listing off his influences.”
This is the 103rd store in the chain Trone started with his brother 22 years ago. It’s their first in the Midwest.
“Well, we’re well cheaper, no question about that. And the selection on the spirits is absolutely crucial,” he said.
With high tech displays and a highly trained staff, Trone loves to talk about their Nordstrom level service, but it still comes down to price and selection.
“The high end selection is spectacular, but we also have a phenomenal $2 or $3 selection, too,” he said.
He’s not kidding.
They have wine ranging from under $3 to wine over $2,000, wine so important they keep it under lock and key.
With 8,000 wines, 3,000 spirits, and 2,500 beers, it’s sort of like being a kid in a candy store.
“We have a huge data base where we put everybody else’s price in, and then we of course work off cost and we know we’ll make it up volume,” said Trone. “So you’ve got to drive the volume.”
“It’s David and Goliath is what it is,” said Steve Burwell.
Burwell has seen plenty of competition since he opened Fairview Wine and Spirits in 1985.
Yet, in all that time, he’s never seen prices like this.
Total Wine is less than a quarter of a mile down Fairview from Fairview Wine and Spirits.
“These guys have what I kind of think of as predatory pricing. They get it right down to pennies above what they pay for it,” he said.
Steve said he’ll rely on service, convenience, and loyal customers to get by, but he wonders about folks driving in from other cities to shop at the store down the street.
“If they’re driving 15 or 20 miles to save two bucks on a bottle of brandy, I don’t think they’ve done the math,” he said.
Trone is trying to pen more stores in the Twin Cities, but he’s facing strong opposition.
The Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association is fighting license requests in other cities, pointing to market saturation and fines in other states.
Trone said the real issue is simply competition.
“The opposition always hates making less money,” he said. “And they’ve been making a lot of money here for a lot of time, so they’re not happy about that.”
After one month in Roseville, Trone calls this their best opening ever. They rang-up 14,000 customers last week alone, and he shared a secret for finding the very best bargains. When a wine price ends in a seven, like $9.97, it’s at cost. So low, their case discount doesn’t apply.
Speaking of value, just how much can you save at Total?
WCCO put together a sample shopping list, with 3 popular wines, two 12-packs of beer, and a best-selling Vodka and Whiskey, and we compared prices with two large, nearby liquor stores.
At Store A, the list cost $99.93. At Store B, it cost $98.92. And at Total Wine, it was more than $24 cheaper, at $74.87.