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



Regarding EP. This year the Rhone and Burgundy overlapped for no reasons other than “that’s just how the dates fell”. Can this be sorted out for future years so that members can be informed of their allocation for one campaign, before having to place an order for the next campaign?


I think Tom gave a tip on this one…


Hi, Kefraya is good but i do find the style quite modern. My view is that our Lebanese range should have individuality- exactly why Musar works so well. Quite a few Lebanese wines do suffer from being internationalised in their taste. I really rate Ksara and Tourelles at the moment.


I mentioned in an earlier question that I do not want us to grow for its own sake. In truth, we have to grow in order to sustain the investments required to help us survive and compete - new warehouse, new web-site, better communications tools, better data and analytics – we have to make these investments and we are unable to make them without an overall growth in membership. That said, we have another reason to grow and that is the demographic make-up of our existing member base – we are all quite old! Just to put this in context: our biggest and highest spending sub-set of our membership base has an average age of 66. (about 40,000 of the 141,000) The next biggest sub-set (about 35,000) have an average age of 59. All those interested in a Society that is secured for the future would support us in planning for our future! However, and this is important, I do not see this exercise as being about young members, female members, members from different backgrounds. We are a business, first and foremost that attracts people that love wine and we will continue to manage the business with this at the heart of what we do. So, to the question of how big should we become – we will answer it after presenting our strategy to The Committee. What I will say, is that when asking the same question of my teams, the range was 200k to 500k by 2025. My number was the smallest! Our Member Services team score really highly for service delivery. We want to keep it that way. Most queries surround deliveries. As we migrate our systems, most of these will be automated either through order tracking or simply more accurate information at point of order. As we improve our website, there will be more opportunity for self service. As we attract a more internet savvy generation, the calls to member services will fall. This means that we can make more of the incredible knowledge and expertise our team have, without the need to recruit an army of people.


You probably need to update the Rules then (and while you’re at it, perhaps consider dropping the gendered pronouns…)


Thank you, a considerable sum then!


Hi Tom, You’re right - that 12 month definition is what we use internally but we need to make sure they’re aligned with the ones in the Rules.


We are doing more en primeur activity beyond the classics…Barolo, Rioja, South Africa etc…so need to work a bit harder on planning the timings to prevent overlaps in the future. Thanks for pointing it out.


We keep a close eye on packaging innovation – there are many good ideas emerging, but again, we have to strike the balance between innovation and protecting the drinking quality of wine.

I would add to our previous comments that we are not nimble at present – our investment in the right systems will help us achieve our goals more easily.


Would be interesting to know the full breakdown here! However:

I understood your answer here (highest spending mosaic) as to be about TWS membership - but did you mean in general terms for UK consumers?


Thanks for the question. We’re conscious of our packaging but have to ensure that our boxes meet the requirements of the delivery networks that we work with - the current Wine Society box minimises the number of issues we encounter. That said, we’re currently undertaking a full review of our packaging. The three key areas we are focussing on are performance (ensuring your wine arrives with you in great condition), environmental impact and cost. At the end of this process we hope to be able to employ a “cleverer” solution that will reduce the use of packaging material as well as reduce the number of bottles broken en-route to our members. There is some way to go but it is definitely on our radar.


Hi Tom - these numbers relate to our members only. There is a significant difference to the population as a whole. The key point is that we are ageing and therefore have to build acquisition approaches now and not when it is too late !


Hi Tom, You’re right we’re not smart enough in this area but we do intend to address this. At the moment we don’t blanket mail but instead try to send mailings to members who we think will be interested in the content (based on previous purchases, for example). We do recognise though that in future members should have more of a say in what they receive both by post and email - it’s certainly on my radar!


This is all about having a preference centre where members can have some control over what they receive and in what format. This will certainly be a feature of a new website, but we are looking to see if we can include this functionality on our existing site. Today, whenever we send a mailing, we know that it will resonate with some and not others, but simply can’t apply preferences on the tools we have today. We agree with you !


Hi, we can do pedantic! At the moment it isn’t possible (and frankly not that easy to adapt our current website) to enable you to fill your basket and then direct different items in it to different destinations - I can see that this is a pain to untangle if you tend to build up your basket between purchases. I believe some other members use the wish-list to build up an order and, as and when ready, purchase from the wish-list. In any event, I can confirm that we are actively looking into how we can have more flexible functionality in our website.

Over the years, our members have been tremendously supportive in recruiting friends, family and colleagues into The Society to help secure the future of the business - and ‘Member Get Member’ is important to us, not least because you are best placed to know if membership will be of interest to someone you know. As an incentive, the chance of winning a trip abroad is still proving effective in members recommending new members. We appreciate that some members may have already recommended The Society to all those they know who might enjoy membership.


This is a great suggestion and a new one to me. I will check the requirements list we are building for web developments and will ensure that it is on the list. I also tend to agree with you about incentives to get new members. Our only active recruitment currently is member get member and we tend to stick to tried and tested ways of incentivising this activity. In the future we will have more active acquisition strategies and can review our approach to member-get-member.


One question for the Fine wine section. There has been some controversy about the mailing of offers, pricing and limited allocation of limited supply items.
It a very difficult thing to get right.
Could the society be more open about it policy? Am not even sure if I’m on the list although I’ve asked to be I haven’t had any offers.


Hi Russ - this is a difficult one. Firstly, there is no list to be on or not. Second, when we send single bottle e mails, we limit the distribution to those most likely to be interested. Sometimes this bumps up against our policy not to send too many e mails to members (believe it or not, we do have a limit) and a member may be inadvertently excluded. We need to do better !


If we do nothing and try to run our business the way we do today, then we will not be sustainable. In order to manage today’s business, let alone the future, we need to build a new warehouse, put our website onto a new platform, sort out old and out of support IT systems, even before natural inflation kicks in. Subscription models do have some value, but it isn’t really the type of business we want to become as it erodes the one member, one share, one vote philosophy that in some way defines us. The strategy we are developing faces directly into these challenges and we will communicate the highlights of this once it is approved by The Committee.


On the subject of offers again. I am sure there are many members who would like to order from an offer but simply can’t afford to commit to buying 12 bottles. What are the logistical difficulties with letting members order in 6’s. I am interested in this as I recently received 3x6 bottles of the same wine, 1x6 was in the makers packaging the other 2x6 were in TWS boxes. If this was because the original packaging was damaged then this is a concern.