A&P Buys Wine Retailer, Plans New Concept for Jan. '08

MONTVALE, N.J. -- The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., Inc. here said yesterday it had purchased Best Cellars, a New York-based retailer known for merchandising reasonably priced wines by flavor instead of by origin, and has also hired the specialty wine shop's founder to head up a revamped alcoholic beverage concept.

The grocer said it hired Best Cellars co-founder Joshua Wesson to be its senior director of beer, wine & spirits. Wesson will report to Rebecca Philbert, A&P's s.v.p. of merchandising & supply and logistics.

A&P said Wesson will help transform its freestanding and in-store beer, wine, and spirits operations, incorporating key elements of Best Cellars' marketing approach. The transformation includes a new prototype beer, wine, and spirits concept, set to debut in January in Westwood, N.J.

"This is an outstanding strategic fit with our ongoing Fresh food marketing evolution," noted Philbert in a statement. "Joshua Wesson's creativity and expertise will be instrumental in elevating the look, feel, quality and value of our beer, wine, and spirits offerings, in a way that parallels and interacts with our new Fresh store concept."

Under the terms of the deal, the purchase price, which is not expected to be material, will be based on the growth of A&P's beer, wine and spirits business going forward, to be calculated and paid in four years.

A&P now operates 19 freestanding wine and liquor stores, in addition to 12 in-store departments across its store base in the greater New York-New Jersey, Connecticut, and mid-Atlantic markets.

"This strong presence in and around our food markets presents a tremendous opportunity to parlay the food and wine connection in a truly synergistic way -- creating both value and enjoyment for our customers, and a profitable marketing proposition for A&P," observed Philbert

Employing easily understandable words, icons, and colors, Best Cellars' five locations offer selections organized stylistically (for example, "soft" for medium-bodied white wines, and "smooth" for medium-bodied red wines), rather than by place of origin or grape variety. This approach is intended to enable customers to shop for wine based on taste.

Regarding his new association with A&P, Wesson said, "I've always believed that the future of beverage and alcohol is at the dinner table with food. Now, we'll have a chance to prove it."

A&P operates 315 stores in six states and the District of Columbia under A&P, Waldbaum's, The Food Emporium, Super Foodmart, Super Fresh, and Food Basics banners.
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