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Wine seller House of Bacchus downsizes retail location

Rochester Business Journal
February 8, 2013

Local wine retailer House of Bacchus Inc. has downsized its retail location in hopes of upsizing its bottom line.
 
House of Bacchus spent nearly 45 years in Irondequoit but moved Dec. 1 to a smaller location at 2926 Monroe Ave. on the Brighton-Pittsford town line. The Irondequoit location on East Ridge Road was 13,000 square feet. The Monroe Avenue location is 1,200 square feet.
 
Founder and owner Gerald Clifford said the move came as the company's lease ran out and he wanted to cut some overhead costs while focusing on other areas of the business.
 
"Growth was stagnant at best in recent years due to various factors in the marketplace," he said. "We had a good run there, but now it's time to move on."
 
The downsizing will save the company, which now has six employees, significantly on utility costs, Clifford said. House of Bacchus' core business will continue to be the retail store, but the company also is focusing on its digital, shipping and delivery businesses.
 
Clifford's son Dan joined the business five years ago to help launch an e-commerce end of its business through BacchusWineOnline.com.
 
"With the way we feel the industry is going, we're supplementing in digital sales or non-traditional retail sales to make up for the square footage that we gave up," Dan Clifford said. "Now we have more (of) a showroom that focuses on key products for a particular customer base. It's about giving up a lot of overhead to streamline the business and become more efficient."
 
In its annual State of the Wine Industry Report, Silicon Valley Bank Financial Group said e-commerce sales will make up 25 percent of wine sales in 2013, up from 12.5 percent in 2012.
 
Dan Clifford said e-commerce sales at House of Bacchus were growing steadily month-over-month but hit a plateau over the past year and a half. However, the website has become a valuable marketing tool and data-gathering source, helping House of Bacchus become a more competitive buyer.
 
The data gathering also has helped drive growth in House of Bacchus' shipping business, which includes a 10,000-square-foot warehouse, Dan Clifford said. Gerald Clifford would not say where the warehouse is; it is outside Rochester.
 
House of Bacchus is able to ship wine and liquor in 38 states, with a focus on 24 states, including New York, Florida and Virginia, along with Washington, D.C. Dan Clifford said the firm ships products to both consumers and corporations for retail sale, parties and personalized gifts.
 
"My son has made me a believer," said Gerald Clifford. "Just with the corporate gifts that we ship out from our warehouse at Christmas time, it's a whole new ballgame for us."
 
Gerald Clifford founded House of Bacchus in 1968, following in the footsteps of his father, who was a local saloon owner, and his brother, who owned a wine retail store. The company's move into e-commerce and shipping is not the first time House of Bacchus has tried something new to foster business growth.
 
In 2003, it signed on to become one of about 25 retailers nationwide to offer Drinks, a lifestyle magazine for wine enthusiasts, to its customers. The company is no longer one of the magazine's retailers.
 
Dan Clifford said no matter what the company gets into in the future, the driving force behind all House of Bacchus business segments will remain customer service.
 
"You go where you're going to be treated well," he said. "You want to get the product knowledge that you desire, and you want to feel good about where you spend your money. There's a lot of places you can spend your money in any retail industry, so you have to make people feel good about spending their dollar with you."

2/8/13 (c) 2013 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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