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Best Kept Secret v Loud and Proud


I’ve just been reading the emailed edition of this year’s Annual Report Statement. In the intro, which covers several issues the words ‘best kept secret’ and ‘loud and proud’ have been used to signal the WS transition to becoming a larger and busier wine mutual/co-operative etc.

Thinking this over (for the deed is already done) I wonder what the effects of getting larger and hopefully busier will be on both the availability of wines and consistency of own-label favourites.

Plainly there is plenty of wine sloshing around to satisfy quite a big surge in demand but will quality and consistency suffer. If a WS or WS Exhibition label becomes depleted too quickly, what are the chances of a replacement being as good or as consistent?

I just wonder what the effects of growing at such a pace will have on the above or will the WS become yet another ‘wine club’.


Come to think of it, the same pressure on listed favourites could also be an issue.


Or could attracting even more members allow the Society to thrive in a difficult economic climate when many of its ‘competitors’ are struggling? And could more members, more cash allow for even better quality wine be introduced? Does it give the Society more opportunities to offer a wider range of Society & Exhibition wines?

I’m proud to be part of the society and regularly tell my friends and colleagues about it, I think its great if the Society does the same.


Volumes of alcohol consumed are going down, amount spent per bottle is going up. I would say that a larger membership only mitigates the risk of the society losing its purchasing power. Equally I think it has a growing mandate from its membership to source high quality wines.


I worry regarding the chances of getting Chave Hermitage.


‘best kept secret’?

It seems to me that every UK wine critic, at least once a year, recommends joining TWS.

And I wonder how 140,000 active members compares to, say, Laithwaites or MWW?


TWS had record sales this year. I wouldn’t category this moment in the history of TWS as difficult. Nevertheless, it’s never too late to plan for the future.


Everything you allude to here might well be true. My point was that a lot of organisations grow to a point that they lose their identity, they lose the very thing that people joined them for in the first place. It’s not just wine, virtually every business (and it is a business not the boy scouts) that out grew its initial raison d’être changed irrevocably when it became mainstream. If members want just WIGIG type offers so be it but you can get those in the local supermarket.


Hence the questions: (1) What is the raison d’etre of TWS as demographics, socioeconomics and habits change, and (2) which direction / strategy should TWS adopt over the next 5 years?


Absolutely, always good to plan for the future. I’m not sure there is any harm in attracting more members, it can only help in the long term to maintain the Society and perhaps ensure year on year record growth


Don’t disagree, surely the Society can maintain what it does so well already and just shout about it. They don’t have to change to be able to better promote what they do.

Being owned by members allows them to act differently and not go down the WIGIG route, can’t hurt to growth membership to help attract the next generation of members.


WIGIG? Another acronym that passes me by


‘When it’s gone it’s gone’… small parcels with only a limited supply of bottles.


Agree here - I supose it depends what you think defines the Society. According to their own history page, it’s:

The focus, as defined in 1874, continues to be to make available to members the highest possible quality of wines and services at the best possible prices.

Which doesn’t depend on the size of the membership at all. If anything, more members should give more purchasing power and perhaps make even more high quality wines available, and even better prices?

I guess the worry could be that more members would mean my favourite wine is harder to acquire. Well maybe, maybe not. but there are something like 1,500 wines to choose from, I don’t think we’ll thirst!


For me it is about the ‘right profile’. I would measure that by the number of active members and healthy recruitment to replace those who will naturally drop away for one reason or another. I think our profile amongst those with an interest in wine very strong (as evidenced by our excellent coverage in the press and our regular award haul) and believe that that the right target audience in terms of interest, appreciation of our values and spending power. Those members also provide the core for our reputation and recruiting. Key is maintaining service levels and offer to ensure that core continues to enthuse as much as they do about our Society. Balancing growth with our ability to maintain service and offer are fundamental.


My various tuppence worths’

I think it’s important to keep recruiting new members at a sensible rate to replace those who leave or become inactive for whatever reason. I don’t obsess with having to attract younger people…as has already been said some will not have a lot of disposable income, some will. I really don’t care whether a new member is in their 40s/50s or 20s/30s. Either should have a long and happy wine drinking ‘career’ ahead of them.

I think that there is a ‘sweet spot’ for WS which it fills pretty well. This should not be dependent on unthinking turnover growth in volume or money terms. I would think that they are large enough to get good deals from most people at the moment.

The main thing for me is that the ethos continues to offer a wide range of interesting wines from various locations, at various maturities, at various price points which are competitive but not to the extent of a ‘race to the bottom’ mentality.

Word of mouth should continue to be the best recruiting sergeant…


My worry; is an analogy with The Building Societies deregulation in the 1990’s (bear with me!). They went from being many, client focussed, small and inefficient (good for customers) - to being very few, large, efficient, and shareholder focussed (less good for customers).

We will never ‘deregulate’ - my concern is a drive for increased volumes will bring economies of scale, but damage the inherent character of TWS. And a larger membership base will be a bigger animal to feed… requiring more warehouses, staff etc.

I have no problem whatsoever with TWS changing the way it communicates with existing & new members, and appealing to a new demographic - that’s progress, and healthy.


I’m hoping TWS leadership are considering strategies for MUCH longer timeframes - certainly decades.


I first heard of TWS in about 1981. A member told me that it was rather exclusive, mainly for doctors and lawyers. I was neither. I wanted to join, but quickly dropped the idea. Twenty+ years later, I sheepishly asked if I could join. I was neither asked about my job, nor was I required to find a proposer.

Of course, attitudes to wine have changed over the years. Long-gone are the days when suppliers dumped wine on an unknowing British public. A few wine bottles in a supermarket trolley has become usual, rather than exceptional. They like what they drink. No wonder more want to join TWS.


@ScuppersAwash: I first heard of TWS in about 1981. A member told me that it was rather exclusive, mainly for doctors and lawyers. I was neither. I wanted to join, but quickly dropped the idea. Twenty+ years later, I sheepishly asked if I could join. I was neither asked about my job, nor was I required to find a proposer.

You were very lucky if you got the handshake right just by chance!