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Amazon to move into wine

Amazon.com, the world's largest online retailer, is planning to sell wines to Americans.

A 27 February advertisement posted on Amazon.com reports that the company’s consumables division is seeking a ‘Senior buyer, Wine’ for its speciality foods group.

‘The senior buyer is responsible for the acquisition of massive new product selection,’ the ad says, and ‘will work to build an entirely new selection from the ground up.’

The buyer’s duties will include ‘calling on vendors directly, both from our Seattle corporate offices and in the field.’

Amazon.com’s consumables businesses include its nationwide nonperishable grocery, gourmet and specialty foods, including ‘a pilot local grocery delivery service, Amazon Fresh,’ in the Seattle area.

Amazon’s senior spokesman in London said the company would not comment ‘on what we may or may not do in the future’.

He added that articles which had appeared in the Financial Times and other newspapers and websites were ‘pure speculation. We have made no announcement.’

Last summer, Amazon.com began pre-dawn local deliveries of fruits, frozen vegetables and certain nonperishable items as well as natural and organic brands. It began selling gourmet foods in 2003.

Amazon.com’s media spokesman did not return a called yesterday seeking a further explanation of the company’s wine-sales plans.

In entering the wine business, Amazon.com will face wide-ranging challenges in delivering purchases to customers because of complex and varying regulations governing alcohol sales in the 50 states.

Wine.com, now the largest US online wine seller, sells food gift baskets via Amazon, but not wine.

Rich Bergsund, Wine.com’s chief executive officer, told decanter.com, ‘Wine.com welcomes Amazon’s participation in the online wine market. It would help grow and legitimize wine as a viable online category, make wine consumers more aware of the online alternative, and Amazon’s presence might also help us open up more states to the direct shipping of wine by retailers.

‘The US wine market is around $25bn, and only a small percentage is purchased online,’ Bergsund said. ‘There is plenty of room for Amazon as well as specialty retailers like wine.com.’

Written by Howard G Goldberg in New York, and Adam Lechmere

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