POS System Boosts Wine Sales, Spirits

For Sherry-Lehmann, data management and customer service are keys to aging well.

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Improving with age like a fine Cabernet or Merlot, wine merchant Sherry-Lehmann Inc. stays one step ahead of growing customer online and in-store demand largely by ensuring that its data backup technology can withstand the rigors of the end-of-year holiday-buying whirlwind.

Since 1934, Sherry-Lehmann has served generations of customers from its Madison Avenue storefront in New York.

It has built its reputation on quick delivery times and on making the wine purchase as far-reaching and flawless as possible. Naturally, the wine retailer designed its IT systems with the same type of bulletproof mentality in terms of storing, accessing and archiving data.

"My peace of mind is built on the fact that every day Im notified that my backup was successful—its part of what lets me sleep every night," said Shyda Gilmer, managing director at Sherry-Lehmann. "If its not, I know what percentage was successful and whats being done about it. That allows me to focus on being a great wine merchant and selling wine."

To help the entire management team sleep better at night, the company sought to unify and manage clientele data, along with streams of transactions involving 7,000 retail items sent across the companys Web site; retail-store floor; upstairs central office; and 65,000-square-foot Brooklyn, N.Y., warehouse, where inventory is packed and shipped.

To accomplish the task, Gilmer said Sherry-Lehmann set out to construct a POS (point of sale) system capable of dealing with the companys hardest task—handling the approximately 36 percent of its overall yearly business that occurs during the hectic six-week holiday-season stretch.

"Our store is absolutely flooded, and we dont have time to catch up. We value every one of those days," said Gilmer. "During that crunch time of the holiday season, our Web site, our phone banks [and] the store are all going at full speed with data thats constantly backed up and reused."

In fact, Sherry-Lehmann hires 100 more employees during the six-week holiday window to address massive in-store customer demand for wine purchases.

As a mark of its recent success, over a three-year span, Sherry-Lehmann has seen its profits rise from $30 million to more than $45 million last year. Sales from the companys Web site, introduced in early 2002, account for 25 percent of its revenues. System flexibility and the ability to safely copy and lock away data proved crucial for the wine company to sustain growth well into the 21st century.

Said Gilmer: "We had to devise an IT infrastructure that needed to be built for those six weeks, even though you would use it 365 days a year. ... It had to be something to allow us to be constantly upgraded and reach for new business without having any loss of business and enough redundancy and backups in place to have no downtime for more than one day."

Next page: Keeping sales brisk with a POS system.