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TWS Pricing - has it gone up?

Quite a lot of new wines have been added recently, including quite a few top wines from the like of Lynch Bages, and similarly pricey bottles in the Burgundy section - a number of these have the little “museum release” icon that is now being used.

One thing I have noticed via a moderate (not extensive by any means) search is that there are not many bargains, or at least far fewer bargains than I remember. Generally pricing is either exactly in line with other merchants, or indeed sometimes more expensive. Look at this as an example

https://www.thewinesociety.com/product/domaine-jean-grivot-clos-de-vougeot-grand-cru-2013

It’s available from at tat least two merchants quite a big cheaper, and is more or less bang in line with two others. My recollection is that generally TWS “held back” (=museum?) wines would come at a reasonable discount to other merchants, a benefit of our mutuality, but I am not finding that as much as I think I used to.

Just wondered whether anyone else is noticing this?

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Just a comment on the Grivot. I don’t know the EP release price for the 13 vintage back in the day but I saw that it was traded on Cru for £699 cs/6 on Jan 1 2015. It’s available from four different merchants at £575-ish cs/6 today.

Given that, to offer a discount vs the top of the market would TWS need to sell below-cost?

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It sounds like this is a debate only for the higher end wines. TWS doesn’t act as broker, which is maybe a key difference here. If TWS purchased the wine EP for own stock, and the market price has subsequently fallen, as reflected in brokered wine sales, then no, it can’t really cut its prices to match (unless it needs to clear stock and raise cash). It works the other way too for more sought after wines I expect.

In less exalted territory, I did a side by side comparison last week of TWS and Decantalo for a number of Spanish wines which both stock. Decantalo had the edge by a pound or two for some, but TWS was a bit cheaper for a couple too. For non Spanish, TWS was usually cheaper.

For something like Guigal CdR, it’s cheaper than most unless they are discounting I find (which can be quite often).

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Very good point - I just looked it up and it was £700/6 EP, so actually that is exactly the price TWS are offering it today. Given this includes 6-ish years of storage, maybe this is the bare minimum breakeven price, and the other merchants are losing money on it!!

Taking the Lynch Bages 2010 as another example, that was £600/6 EP, so the equivalent of £122 a bottle DP. Storage costs are a further £7.20 since 2013, so a total of £130 vs the price on the website of £140. So perhaps this is a better example than the Grivot.

Quite possible yes. I’ve just had some great wins in the past, including the 2010 Flaccianello earlier this year that are now slumbering in my reserves, and I can’t seem to find anything like that any more. The only reason I looked at this was that I was searching for new burgundy additions as I tend to do once a week or so, and saw all these new wines and wondered if any were well priced vs the street - pretty much everything I looked at was the same.

Exactly - and I imagine TWS are simply passing on prices from higher end suppliers. Blame the grasping Burgundians & classed Bordeaux Chateau.

HOWEVER an extract from TWS as below, lists 224 products with price reductions. So I guess it depends what you are buying ?

Price Reductions

We exist for our members, not for profit. Thanks to your unprecedented levels of support this year, combined with an improvement in exchange rates, we’ve been able to reduce the bottle prices of more than 200 wines. Here we have gathered wines with price reductions from a modest 20p up to £3.

They are, but the secondary market is telling a different story by sound of things. Not all of them are grasping. I try to buy from those who don’t make egregious and unjustified price increases.

You are correct about price reductions elsewhere at less exalted levels. £ strength will explain some of it. EDIT to note that I’ve just seen they state that is the case!

Plus (and this might be the bigger picture) ; 2020-21 was Covid year and TWS sales were significantly higher, whilst the reorganisation of the warehouse meant they could get more product out of the door every week. = Greater sales plus improved efficiency.

If TWS had been a ‘proper company’ that would have resulted in increased profit and therefore payment of corporation tax. However, being a mutual TWS instead returned the surplus cash to the members via price reductions on a range of wines - and therefore had no embarrassing profit to declare. That is my understanding in anyway !

I think that a decision to cut prices and pass on benefits could also have been taken by a ‘proper company’ had it wished.

TWS can declare a surplus and pay little of no CT on it. That was covered off in a discussion earlier this year.

Worth remembering that a lot of other merchant listed stock is actually brokered customer owned wines. Customers who may be more willing to take a loss or sell below market for liquidity.

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Which they do all the time in a small way as ‘loss leaders’ . But to reduce surplus to zero for decades… the Shareholders would be less than happy. So we, happy members, reap the benefit.

In a wider context… the greater wine UK buying public loses out because of our gain?

Technically - that is the same as TWS - we all own the wine, collectively ?

At a very theoretical level maybe, but the key point here is that TWS isn’t taking a decision to take a loss on these wines in the way that other individuals may be via the brokered route.

TWS don’t do that either…yes, they are certainly not profit maximisers, but in the most recent financial year there was a profit after tax of £7.5m and retained profit of £5m after appropriated dividends.

On prices generally I find TWS prices a mixed bag. Some are higher than supermarket prices and you can also sometimes get EP offers cheaper elsewhere.

Overall, though, I think TWS prices are typically lower than anywhere else in the UK. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many French wines I’ve seen this year significantly cheaper than cellar door prices - can’t ask for more than that.

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This is priced well below even inferior vintages of the same wine

https://www.thewinesociety.com/product/domaine-bruno-clair-chambertin-clos-de-beze-grand-cru-2014

Agree there aren’t any other obvious bargains in the Burgundies, although I bet some of the white 1ers are cheaper than you can get elsewhere (haven’t specifically checked WSPro as I don’t want to end up buying anything!).

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Some of the pricing looks bizarre. This case:

The Fine Rioja Shortlist Case (which looks amazing btw)

is £2 more expensive than if you bought the six wines individually. I know it’s not a huge amount but I assume there shouldn’t be any surcharge on pre-mixed cases?

No, we own a share which, in the event of a dissolution, may have value if the Society has a surplus after a sale of assets. The Society owns the wine.

Interesting, the Gevrey Chambertin case is £3 cheaper. Some you win etc…

That Rioja case does look nice - hopefully some of its label-stained contents are winging their way to me in the “3 claret/3 spanish” mystery case.

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