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Pre-AGM Ask Me Anything with three of our Executive Team, 1-2pm



Good afternoon, everyone! :smiley:

Welcome to our Ask Me Anything LIVE Q&A with three members of our Executive Team:

Steve Finlan, CEO

Pierre Mansour, Head of Buying and Acting Head of Marketing


Liz Cerrotti, Head of Member Experience

We’ll be going live at 1pm. We’ll start by answering your excellent advance questions, but feel free to chip in with live questions or followup questions and Steve, Pierre and Liz will answer as many as we can during this hour.

This is a great opportunity to ask about your Society, and we’d also like to take this opportunity to remind you that we have our AGM on Monday 10th June - find out how to join us here.

Who’s here today? Say hello while we get ready to go live. :wave:

Invitation to Ask Me Anything: EP Bordeaux with buyer Tim Sykes, 3rd July 1-2pm

here…but may have to duck in and out due to election duties !


We have a robust challenge to the advice we received in process. I’m sure that you will understand that I am unable to share details at this stage, but I think the inference in the question was, are we seeking redress, and the answer is a definite yes. Once concluded, the outcome will be shared with members.


Our strategy is nearing completion and will be presented to The Committee in June and the highlights shared with members, On the points you raise specifically:

a. We can no longer rely on member get member to fuel our acquisition of new members. We require growth in our membership, in part to sustain it for the future. (we cannot afford to wait for our demographic time bomb to hit) and in part to generate cash for investment – we will not be able to compete effectively unless the teams have the tools to do their jobs. We have no need to grow for growth’s sake and the size of our future membership will be agreed with The Committee in June.

b. There have been huge changes across the industry, not least the demise of Oddbins and the future demise of Majestic. This represents an opportunity and a threat. We plan to capitalise on potential customers switching from their current sources to the Wine Society. We are also aware that competing organisations (Naked Wines after Majestic is divested) have extremely deep pockets and are already creating strong marketing stories. To compete, we need a better website, better applications that allow us to communicate more effectively, sufficient and automated warehousing and growth in those activities that make us unique – our own vehicle fleet, the size, expertise and freedoms of our buying teams and our mutuality - known to longstanding members but less well understood by new and future members.

c. Purchasing behaviours is a big subject! In short, we feel well placed for the trend of buying less for more. We see our mutual status as being a huge asset as we seek new members, along with our values and associated business model. Our buyers have the freedom to purchase a broad range of wine, be the first to list new trends or new countries and without the pressure to deliver better and better margins – this means that our supplier relationships and the provenance of our wines is second to none.

d. All of the above is great, but we also need modern systems, not to help us understand our members better – we are strong in this area – but to be able to provide a more personalised experience, for example, we have no preference centre where a member can define what they would like to receive from us. We also need better communications systems to assist us with the understanding and targeting of future members.


Hi Tom, it wasn’t as contentious a campaign in the rest of the membership as it was in the Community! Members seemed to react well judging by the orders - it was simply meant to inject a bit of fun and it seemed to do so. Not something we plan to repeat all the time, but we’re pleased to have been able to share some joy.


The Golden Bottle was a combination of things. We wanted to something different, to utilise stocks that had gone beyond the reach of most members, to have some fun here at The Society and also to help us to learn how to introduce more and different offers for members.

Overall, it was a great success, with positive comments significantly outweighing negative ones. Our sales so far this year are well ahead of budget and last year in difficult market conditions and Golden Bottle played a large part in this momentum. Whether we do it again is a different question. Offers like these are best done with a long time in between, so watch this space!


but are you able to say if it 1) increased sales or 2) membership - both YoY

as surely that was the purpose ?


Yes it did have an impact on sales - not really targeted at non members. Purpose was more than simply sales as in para 1 above


Hi, You’re right that the tastings programme over that summer quarter isn’t so representative of the spread of members across the UK, although by my definition of ‘north’ the team are looking forward to four events over those months (Liverpool, Leeds, Durham, Sheffield).

However, looking at 2019 as a whole (including events planned for the rest of this year) the team will have hit the road north a total of 26 times, including five events in Scotland, which is a better reflection of the norm. The overall intention of our tastings programme is to get out and see our members nationwide – there’s nothing better than sharing the wine tasting experience in pleasant surroundings, face-to-face with like-minded people.

In terms of geographical spread, our challenge is to deliver the aims of ‘going where the members are’, going where there’s demand (where tickets sell) and doing all this in a cost-effective way! So no deliberate bias intended, in fact the team love getting away from Stevenage (in the nicest possible way!)

Summer Tastings & Events 2019

thanks - saw your comment after I had posted.

Glad it met (one off) the desired effect(s)


We’re not unduly concerned by the proportion of members trading with us. Apart from the 140,000 members who buy from us regularly, other members’ use of The Society can vary according to their lifestyle or particular stage in life. Annual subscription would be a completely different business model that obliges customers to commit. Buying a share in The Society means that our members are free to use The Society as and when suits them.


We consistently review our approach to the share price, the joining offer and whether we should change our approaches. We have no plans to introduce a subscription, other than member sign ups to Wine Without fuss or Vintage cellar plan. I have been struck by the democracy at TWS and this is something we will continue to cherish. We have many members spending a lot with us and many members who spend what they can. The purchasing characteristics can often go alongside lifestage – disposable income tends to increase with age and a lot of our lower spending members today will become higher spending in the future. In a membership organisation, lifetime value is incredibly important, so we do not wish to differentiate now. One member, one share, one experience.


Hi, we know from research that many members and potential members can struggle to understand the tangible benefits of The Society’s co-operative model. This year we decided it was the right time to bring this to life in the annual review. It’s true that some members, like yourself, already relate to the value of the co-operative model but we know that many do not. The buyers’ reports are popular amongst the membership and moving them online meant that buyers were not limited by word count to articulate their regional reviews.


The Annual review has received some mixed comments. It is true that some more established members feel that they already know what makes The Society what it is, but we have received very positive feedback from newer members who may not fully appreciate the depth and richness of our business model. We will have to review how we promote buyers reports. Clearly, we would like to provide a digital journey so good that it becomes your natural choice when seeking information from us; but it is fair to say that we are not there yet. Being online means that we can keep them up-dated, provide links to explore areas of interest in more detail and significantly greater depth of content about the wine. Some mebers will always prefer printed material – hopefully when we up-date our website, we will be able to provide a level of choice for members about what they receive from us and in what format.


This is an interesting idea and one that we have debated quite recently. One area that we may investigate is the possibility of supporting a young, rising star grower that we believe has future potential, perhaps providing support in the early days in exchange for exclusive wines etc


Interesting idea. I don’t think it will be top of our list, given the things we need to complete to modernise and future proof The Society, but it is exactly the sort of thing we should keep on the agenda and there are many, many winemakers and associated businesses looking for financial investment !


Hi @PierreM

Just wondering if/when we’ll be seeing Kefraya on the list :+1: :lebanon:

Or Khoury, Nakad, Ka, Heritage…! :blush:




ooo :heart_eyes:


140,000 members ordered in the last 12 months (that’s what we define as ‘active’).


This is an area where we have to do more work. There are many things that we do – use of solar panels, recycling initiatives. Energy usage controls and a back to the source approach to buying (including sustainable farming techniques, water usage…) but we have not pulled these together into a CSR or sustainability strategy. We need to ! Glass bottles, sold in boxes, delivered by vans is not a promising start, but I would like to think that we can do much better in this area of business and we plan to build on the somewhat disconnected things that we do today.