Top Costco Executive Discusses Wine Business in Q&A

on 13/10/14 at 8:19 am


eupiypcdAnnette Alvarez-Peters is one of the most powerful people in the wine industry.

She supervises the wine buyers for Costco Wholesale Corp., which sold $3.7 billion in alcohol around the world last year. The sway Costco carries in the industry from the vineyard to retail shelf is tremendous because many wineries want a shot at floor space inside the big-box discount retailer, based in Issaquah, Wash.

Alvarez-Peters has held various positions within the company from an entry-level accounting job to merchandising receptionist. She was a beverage alcohol buyer in the company’s Los Angeles Division from 1995 to 2005, when she was promoted to her current position, assistant general merchandise manager of beverage alcohol.

Alvarez-Peters is definitely not a wine snob. Some wine connoisseurs got bent out of shape when she told a CNBC interviewer in 2012 that selling wine is no different than selling toilet paper. “But at the end of the day, it’s just a beverage,” she said in the CNBC interview. She is studying for her Masters of Wine.

To get a sense of the current wine (and beer) retailing environment, Press Democrat wine business reporter Bill Swindell conducted a question-and-answer session with Alvarez-Peters via email. The following is an edited transcript:

Q: How tough is it to get a wine sold at a Costco store?

A: By design, we have a very limited number of wines in our system. We tend to have a constant rotation of wines which we like to refer to as our “treasure hunt.” Each buyer is very selective in choosing items for their respective regions. We look for quality wines at a value.

Q: How big is your team? How do you settle on a mix of international versus domestic wine?