The successful wine bar at Waitrose in Horsham places the grocer ahead of the curve as retailers struggle to compete with the leisure sector.

Glass of wine anybody? According to BDO data, high street like-for-likes fell in July as shoppers opted to spend time in restaurants and bars instead.

Makes sense really. At the end of a long day, why wouldn’t you choose to relax a little? And if that means spending money on a pint, an Aperol Spritz or the latest chi-chi summer salad rather than shopping, then best of luck.

But does all of this have to mean falling sales for retailers?

Visiting Waitrose in Horsham last week (joined at the hip with a John Lewis at home), it was apparent that at least this outfit is aware of the danger of shoppers looking for something else to do with their money.

In keeping with every other supermarket, this one has a wine, beer and spirits department. The difference about this store, as well as a couple of others in the Waitrose estate, is that there is a wine bar alongside it – and it is doing a brisk trade, according to the store management.

Supermarket sipping

But hang on, why would you choose to sip a chilled Chablis while announcements such as ‘cleaner to aisle four’ can be heard in the background? Wouldn’t it make more sense to head off to a standalone wine bar and do the same with James Last, Vivaldi or Coldplay being played at a volume that lends some kind of going-out ambiance?

Well possibly, but the point about what has been done in Horsham is that owing to the store design it is perfectly possible to forget that you’re in a supermarket. And instead you can chat with somebody who really does know more than you do about the contents of the glass in front of you.

Wisely, the Horsham Waitrose wine bar is tucked away in the store’s ‘fourth-corner’ (the last point on the shopper journey), making it both destination and reward for those who have gone food shopping. Small wonder therefore that it is doing well.

It is ahead of the supermarket curve in terms of innovation and it is on speaking terms with the consumer zeitgeist as outlined by BDO. It’s also a pretty nice place; there is, apparently, a Friday night fan who has been in a couple of times and ordered a bottle of Bollinger to be consumed in-store – this is not plonk-de-plonk territory.

Waitrose has understood that making more of what you already have is the way forward.