Wine is flowing at independently owned convenience stores. That’s great news for those establishments that already stock up on the red and white. It’s also an important and timely message for small to mid-sized business owners whose stores have little to no wine selection: It may be time to broaden your beverage base.

A National Retail Solutions (NRS) data analysis of more than 1,200 convenience stores in its network that sell wine found that those businesses sold $19 million worth of product in 2020, and that consumers spent more per bottle in 2020 over 2019. Furthermore, Nielsen reported that wine sales in independent convenience stores were up 44.5% in 2020 compared to 2019.

This could be partially due to bars and nightclubs having closed their doors because of the pandemic, with many customers avoiding these businesses even when they’ve been able to reopen with restricted capacity. Corner stores that sell wine and other liquor have replaced the corner bar as an adult beverage destination.

The NRS study also found that wine was a much hotter product in NRS stores in 2020 than beer. Sales were only up 19% even while including hard seltzers and cider. That said, a comparison to other products shows how popular all alcohol products were: tobacco sales were up 9.6% and non-alcoholic beverages were up 8.6%. People were clearly buying more alcohol at the local bodega.

Convenience store proprietors that have previously eschewed vino on the shelves needn’t worry about buying a vineyard’s worth of product. You can start at a pace you’re comfortable with, and use integrated POS systems like those provided by NRS to track inventory in real-time. If you do so, pay attention to more than just how much wine sells in general, but to which brands and vintages are flying off the shelf and which are gathering dust. Diversity of selection is also important. You don’t want to be out of the most popular brands and not be able to meet customer requests.

If you do decide to invest in wine or expand your offerings, consider a promotional display or sale popping the cork on your new addition or increased selection. You’ll likely save customers a trip to the liquor store and increase your store’s reputation as a convenient one-stop shop. Advertise in the window that you now sell wine or have increased your selection and you’ll also likely draw in new customers that may have otherwise passed your store by. Once they enter your doors for wine, it’s probable they’ll peruse your shelves for other items as well.

For those already selling wine, make sure your prices aren’t stagnant. NRS found that the overall average price per bottle sold of any size was $9.03 in 2020, up from $7.97 in 2019, an impressive 13.3% rise in a single year. So customers are willing to pay more per vintage. Don’t be afraid to raise your prices modestly.

In addition, Sovos ShipCompliant and Wines Vines Analytics recently reported that many people ordered wine online for the first time in 2020. Convenience owners shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that online shopping through Apps and web portals are just for the big chains. Any sized store can benefit through online ordering for curbside and in-store pickup or delivery.

In fact, now more than ever offering your customers an online shopping option is essential. The pandemic has made people more used to ordering items ahead of time, and curbside pickup has become a matter of health and safety as well as convenience. NRS offers approachable online shopping Apps and web portals through its POS systems that won’t break a small business owner’s bank. At the same, these services eliminate the expense for a small to mid-sized business owner of building and maintaining their own website.

Only less than one-third of the stores NRS measures sold wine in 2020, but an opening is there because 2,852 stores carried beer compared to only 1,221 carrying wine (and 932 carrying spirits). While stocking spirits can create legal issues, most states that allow beer sales in convenience stores also allow wine sales. Convenience stores that don’t carry wine can plug into the market by offering a proven product that many of their competitors do not.

Growing the wine market in convenience stores might be a simple matter of convincing more small to mid-sized business owners to give wine a try. For all of the reasons listed in this post, it could prove to be a very worthy investment.