While the Internet has become a massive global marketplace, the sale of some items online still can be difficult. Because of the age restrictions associated with the purchase of alcoholic beverages, selling wine online can be a complicated enterprise. However, with the proper paperwork and licenses in hand, you can build your own Internet wine retail business.
Review state and local laws that apply to the sale of wine and alcoholic beverages. Even though you will be selling wine via the Internet, you still will be subject to any wine-related laws or taxes within the boundaries of your state and county. Review the necessary business or alcohol-related licenses you will need to obtain. Each state, county, and even city can vary greatly so make sure you understand the legal issues associated with running this type of business before getting started.
Familiarise yourself with states where shipping alcohol through the mail is prohibited. This will give you an idea of how difficult it may be to market to other states. See the Resources section for a list of prohibited states.
Research thoroughly federal requirements regarding the legal sale of alcohol. In particular, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau will require you to pay taxes and fill out TTB forms.
Consider selling a small inventory of high-end wines via online consignment, rather than starting your own web site. These online wine-selling communities include sites such as WineCommune.com and WineBid.com.
Build your inventory. You can choose to carry rare wines, affordable table wines or wines from a specific geographic area or varietal. Start developing inventory through wine and spirits distributors in your area; find listings in the Yellow Pages or inquire with a off-licence or other retailer. Consider purchasing inventory through auctions, both online and in person, or from local collectors via wine clubs, classified ads or estate sales.
Consider your sales model. You can entice customers by offering hard-to-find wines, deeply discounted cases of wine or a limited-edition wine of the day.
Launch your web site. Make sure your servers can handle the strain of numerous visitors. Make sure your web site's checkout system is encrypted or linked to a verified checkout system such as Google Checkout or PayPal.
Select a shipping partner. The USPS often restricts the shipping of alcohol or other liquids so you will likely want to set up a contract with UPS or FedEx. Drop off packages at the shipping centre or arrange for a delivery person to pick up outgoing packages at your office.