June 21, 2006

Vineyards: Increasing Sales On The Web

Since the passage of new state legislation last year that allows New York wineries to ship their spirits across state lines, local wineries have beefed up their websites in hopes of boosting sales.

But selling over the net isn't easy. It takes money, money that many wineries struggle to secure.

Enter Governor George Pataki. Two weeks ago the governor announced a new initiative that aims to help wineries achieve their goal of increasing sales over the Internet.

The program makes available $500,000 in state grants to wineries that would like to enhance their websites.

Wineries selected to participate are eligible for up to $2,500 to be used to "make their websites more effective marking tools to promote New York's wine industry."

Websites can be modernized to include age verification software, foreign translations, direct shipment capabilities, a shopping cart feature, or a Pay Pal system.

"New York wineries offer a host of award-winning products, and we are committed to working with them to expand their marking and sales of these world class wines," said Pataki

"Anything that can help us to do things better and is willing to fund it is a great idea," said Marco Borghese, owner of Castello Di Borghese Vineyard and Winery in Cutchogue.

Borghese explained that many wineries have the same problem: they cannot afford the cost of keeping up with website technology. And that, he said, translates, into less sales.

Holly Palm, assistant manager of Bedell Cellars, agreed. Bedell, which receives 25 web orders on a good week and half that on a not-so-hot week, would also like to garner additional sales over the web by using the latest technology. "Of course, I am all for anything that can help us with that," she said.

Charles Massoud, owner of Paumanok Vineyard, could not say exactly how many hits his website receives each week, but guesses around 100. He knows, however, that if he can make his site more user-friendlier, he could get a whole lot more.

For instance, the way the new wine shipment law reads, people living in certain zip codes outside of New York state cannot have New York wine shipped to them. Massoud said he would like to make that information available to customers before they start the ordering process online and get frustrated when they find their wine order cannot be delivered. "There needs to be a way to make the site more interactive with professional software," he said.

Steve Bate, executive director of the Long Island Wine Council, was elated by the prospects. "Any support the state can provide to improve the ability to market wines across the country is wonderful," he said.

Bate explained that many wineries on the East End are small and marketing themselves outside the state would be difficult without the web. "The Internet is their prime channel," he said.

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