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Limited Editions


#1

Back in the early 1990’s, Oddbins did a small range of Malt Whisky.
My favourite was a Springbank bottling which was utterly gorgeous.
The last time that I purchased it, was only about £17/ bottle, I purchased 2.
I drank one over a couple of years, inexplicably forgot about the remaining bottle.
About 10 years ago I inquired at a well known Whisky Emporium at its possible value.
I was offered around £250!!
The Society has all sorts of contacts, it used to do a legendary Early Landed Cognac which can cause some members to go all misty eyed at its passing. Inquiries for its reinstatement seem to fall on deaf ears. Reasons that I remember given was it went to the “Trade!!” We can sort that out with numbered (laser etched bottles) and severe allocations. CAN DO, should be the mantra!
As a Society, we get concerned about the age demographic of the membership but do “little” to be attractive, exclusive or noteworthy for the “New Generation!!” And we moan and wring our hands as to why the New Generation do not know about us let alone want to JOIN.
They like “BLING” and a small range of limited edition spirits like Malt Whisky, Cognac, Armagnac, Rum and maybe a Marc from a very famous Wine Producer might be a good way of producing alcoholic bling and great publicity and new members as a by product.
Yes, a long term project, certainly not easy but there MUST be casks out there that we could snaffle up, either at auction, from members or from contacts.
We do stuff the same way. year on year. No harm in that. If it ain’t broke…!
We need to do things that bring us to the attention of some who are currently not members but by dint of this sort of project, just might be!
A Wine Society Limited Edition Bottle should have a cachet, an aspiration and a premium.
This is probably “Blue Sky” thinking for an organisation that is over 100 years old.
No harm in grasping the nettle and taking on a bit of risk?!
Surely that is what happened in 1874 or when we started doing En Primeur.
Who wouldn’t want to be the Chairman that instigated and approved this sort of idea?
Heck, who as a buyer would not want to be the person who was responsible for such a ground breaking range?

Aspirational, a word used so often these days.
The WS could produce our own version or brand of aspirational that could set hearts a flutter.
All we require is desire and vision!!

Thoughts and maybe feedback?


#2

I’m not interested in spirits, but I wonder, if the demand is as you say it will be, and that people will join TWS just to get their hand on them - whether demand will exceed supply and members and those who have joined specifically for them, will be disappointed when these limited editions quickly sell out.

We’ve seem how upset people are when this happens in the Ribera del Dueros thread


#3

Top of my head, 5000 bottles per issue.
One bottle entry per new member, to be allocated in an annual draw.
2500 bottles in New Member Draw, if successful to be paid for
Existing members to apply for bottle, then the annual draw.
New members would get a ?% discount on the existing members price.
A hogshead of Whisky is 200-250 litres, so one bottling would require 20+ (ish) bbls.
I did not say it would be easy, but not undoable.
The idea is that there would be disappointments, but those who were successful would have something that would be highly desired. And it would be consumed, and as less was available its price would increase. The marketplace would provide the publicity in shops or auction rooms.
It’s a Saturday morning, it’s an idea off the top of my head.
The methodology, its not perfect - far from.
If members think that it might fly, it can be discussed.
Me, as far as I’m concerned; I’ve done my bit with the concept.

But I do think that we need to do something exciting and different.

What do you suggest if this will not work?
We need to do something because what we are currently doing is not attracting the demographic that we wish to target but are NOT!


#4

Do they though? I get the impression that what the ‘younger generation’, whatever that means, crave most of all is authenticity. See the rise in craft beer, gin etc. TWS has that in spades. They also have exclusive bottles but too much of that kind of marketing doesn’t seem to fit the cooperative nature.

As for spirits, hmm. I can’t quite imagine some super exclusive bottlings will suddenly attract thousands of young new members. More like a few bottle flippers.


#5

I’m sure they are. I think the generation wine events are quite popular?

It seems to me that one thing membership organisations need to thrive is loyalty. And most consumers are quite fickle, so that’s a challenge. TWS excel in their quality, variety and customer service, all of which inspire loyalty. I’m not saying some exclusive bottlings or some sort of member joining incentive is bad, but a fireworks show that will disappoint most seems like it will encourage the fickle rather than the loyal.


#6

I think that I saw that the average age of new members was 38
The average age of members 58.
I might be wrong with these numbers but if 38 is correct then we have a problem.
The younger generation cannot afford their own home in the SE or London.
The WS need disposable income to be spent here.
We have to compete for it.
Times have changed in the last 20 years.
We need to respond to that change.
So what do you suggest to turn the bus around?


#7

As a newish member, I must admit that the idea of ‘exclusivity’ actually puts me off - and as @tom puts it, sits rather uncomfortably with the notion of a cooperative.
What I really don’t like about the world of wine is its (rightly or wrongly) snobbish image. Personally, I feel I joined TWS to have access to a vast array of wines, and tap into the buyers’ knowledge, so that I can expand my own, and explore unknown wines, styles and regions. I couldn’t care less about exclusive bottles.
Might be a narrow view, but I doubt I’m the only one…?


#8

And Society Membership is different to most memberships.
Ours is a lifetime one that currently has a net cost of £20, which may be paid by someone else.
A social Club or golf Club membership is an annual outlay.
Our membership has no commitment whatsoever, be it wine spend or subscription.
It would be interesting to see how WS income was actually derived.
E.G.
How many members are active, i.e. buy £50 of wine per year.
How many £100, £200, £500, £1000, £2000 £5000, £10000, and what was each groups age demography.

I know that that information would never be released but if it were, we would have a nasty shock!!
I want to see a successful Society fit for purpose in the 21st Century.


#9

Well, I had a hell of a lot more disposable income before we bought our house :rofl:

I think the various plans could be pushed a bit harder. Beer, gin etc monthly plans seem very popular, especially as gifts. Could probably bundle membership in with a certain length of commitment and get more interesting plan types. I’m sure all of this has/is being discussed at HQ though for sure.


#10

In a way, you have supported a counter-argument to your initial one.

Surely if we want to attracts younger generation of wine enthusiasts, and we know that this same generation has limited disposable income- then the last thing the society should be concerned with is exclusive/expensive special edition bottles?

Varied and excellent wine (and spirits), at affordable - but not ridiculously low prices - is the raison d’être of the Society, and to my mind should remain its main focus.


#11

@Inbar

I will argue or even conflate in order to get a discussion underway.
For example I would not wish members to spend beyond their means.
I read recently that many within the UK are in this position.
So, a limited edition bottle should not have a price that is beyond the pale.
My idea is that access to one should be a matter of good fortune or luck in a draw.
And if you were a New Member and got access to one bottle at say 50% of that that an existing member might willingly pay, that would be an incentive to join. The benefits that we become aware of, would come later.
It certainly became many, many years before I got my head around what the Society was, did, sold, benefits etc. But there again I’m Welsh and a man so it should be implied that it would take a while, or much longer!! lol!?!:wink:
The days of very low priced, good or better wines are long gone.
Bulgarian Cab Sauv with serious bottle age are just a memory, as are those when Guigal dumped his declassified better wines into his CDR and sold a magnificent Rhone blend.
But we do have buyers who can persuade gifted winemakers to give us access to small lots of their production, or just even the best cask(s) of a vintage. That’s where todays value lies.
Our job though is to get them through the door, all suggestions welcome.


#12

But it might put off as many new members (those of us with no interest in whisky and/or an active dislike of draws) as it attracted.

There does need to be more information for new members and potential new members about the types of wine available, how to search for what you want, the types of offers, what the various events are like, what types of help are available in this Community…but that gets back to other topics.

It seems odd for a Wine Society to try to attract members by suggesting that they should really want something else.


#13

@SPmember @Inbar

So scrap my suggestion, no problem with that.
Brexit and other elections have taught us that you cannot please everybody!
I just want to see us attract a younger demography.
What do you suggest that will work?
I think that we need something that will work in the media
I think that we need to generate some sort of excitement, that regenerates annually.
I think that we need a serious and sustained uptick in the membership numbers,
I think that whatever is proposed is a productive pathway for the future.

In the early 1970’s a boss of mine, when I made him aware of a problem lost it and retorted with expletives deleted “Do not EVER bring me a problem without a solution!”
Now, that was a lesson.

If we accept that we must have a better methodology for attracting new and younger members.
It is easy to say “no” to what we currently have.
It is much more difficult to propose something that will have a better outcome.

I’ve had my shot, crashed and burned. That’s OK!!
Tell us your suggestion??

As a matter of fact, can someone on the Society Staff tell us the numbers for the last decade.
I mean the year on year increase in numbers.
And the age range within that grouping.
Say under 40
40-50
50-60
60-70
70+
Why should we as members be concerned.?
We, as members stumped up our cash and voluntarily became members.
I wonder how many recent Chairmen/Persons or CEO’s were members before taking their appointment.
And we will still be here after they have left their positions.


#14

Really need a lot more facts to make this discussion more meaningful, but if the average joining age is 38 then this gives the average person perhaps 40 years of membership. Why is it so important to get them younger. I don’t see it myself.
I don’t know whether the overall membership number is going up or down. If it is dropping that would be a concern, but surely what is needed is members who actively buy wine. Does it matter how old they are? What matters more is that they have the means and the desire to buy wine. What am I missing?


#15

Who knows? This may be the one problem that is made better, not worse, by Brexit. I don’t buy many French or German wines from TWS, and postponed joining, because I buy most of these from the producers. Any limits (or extra costs) on what people can bring back will make a good source of wines on this side of the Channel more attractive.


#16

I agree. The age factor doesn’t seem crucial - and people come to appreciate wine at various points in their lives. Active membership seems to me more important than demographics or age. If anything, younger people may have the desire, but not necessarily the means, though this is perhaps a generalisation.


#17

There is a big demographic shift around the level of consumption of alcohol and I think in a time of austerity, a little inverse snobbery as well. The retailers doing relatively well with younger demographics seem to major on provenance, sustainability (organic/BD etc.) and occasionally exclusivity but more of the in line with the ‘artisanal’ vibe than an ‘elite’ one. Sites like SommSelect in the US focus on one wine at a time, with extensive provenance information; honest grapes has a slick website which seems to show rugged, good looking young winemakers in the new world stood in front of sun-dappled vineyards, again with the same extensive efforts to involve the drinker in the ‘story’ of the wine.

Some of the fine wine merchants are working to make the ‘step up’ into fine wine collecting a little easier with single bottle EP offers and automated trading platforms. This lowers the risks and costs of involvement in fine wine.

We also see wineries seeking to direct market and channels like winebuyers seeking to link wineries to consumers.

Where does this leave TWS:

  1. it needs the current membership and they have a right to continue to be well served by their society, regardless of their age
  2. there is a risk TWS gets a bit left behind and I think it does need to be mindful of the need to remain relevant so a few initiatives might be considered
    A - a regular ‘wine of the week’ or similar with a good ‘story’ - preferably a new release and possibly something that would be too limited in volume to make the main list - which members could sign up to receive notification of by email
    B - improve the quality and detail of wine and producer descriptions including organic status etc. There are some nice touches like the horse at mas du Libian but consistency and depth need to be worked on
    C - wine without fuss: how popular is it? Should we consider multiple wine club offers with specific themes/prices/approaches including for non TWS members?
    D - a podcast. Wine is well suited to podcasting - get a couple of regular hosts who are passionate enthusiasts and then interview buyers, producers, wine of the week features, etc.
    E - really off the wall - consider piloting a physical retail tie up with an aligned and established brand. Might seem mad when the narrative is that retail is dying but sectors of the luxury goods market are doing well and expanding into new locations, particularly travel hubs. Imagine a hotel chocolat/TWS joint store on the Waterloo mezzanine - the stuff would fly off the shelves on a Friday evening. Needs a proper business case but might be worth a shot.
    F - update the brand

Just a few thoughts. My views on making the reserves/fine wine offer more accessible including a trading platform are set out elsewhere


#18

@Jcbl

I think that a podcast would be terrific.
I subscribe at Vinous and they do multimedia (short or not so short videos) on Regions such as N & S Rhone, Vintages such as Bordeaux 2017 etc. Luminaries for example Neal Martin, Antonio Galloni and Josh Raynolds as well as a raft of other experts feature and are terrific viewing.
I am sure that Sebastian and Marcel as well as others would be great in this format.
Maybe something to be considered for the future?


#19

I’m not sure why we should assume that TWS needs to appeal to a younger demographic. Is it the case that TWS members used to join in their 20’s and now are in their 30’s? Or is it an audience that tends to ‘find wine’ slightly later?


#20

We need to avoid becoming London or South East Centric. TWS is and must remain a truly national organisation. However whilst a large amount of the population and a significant proportion of the economy is centred here, it would be wrong to see this as a prime market for future growth. There are significant target populations in Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, central belt Scotland and the North East (@leah has a few friends). By the age of 38 people are becoming increasingly independent from small children, or have reached a status where they can afford to think of wine as a ‘normal’ part of life, or both!
Let’s not get too upset about the age of the TWS demographic. By adopting a too narrow approach we run the risk of becoming just a club for a select group - or disaffected Waitrose customers!