Spotlight on: Wine buying across the industry - "Never a dull moment"

Twitter Tweet Large (6).jpeg

The Women in Wine LDN group met at Liberty Wines October 19th, where we held a panel discussion on wine buying. We had an amazing set of panellists who talked about different aspects of the role of being a wine buyer as well as the challenges they face across different sectors of the trade:

  Photo courtesy of  Clara Rubin ,   National Training Manager at Berkmann Wine Cellars   From left: Hannah van Susteren or Atlas Fine Wines/Women in Wine LDN, Regine Lee of Liberty Wines/Women in Wine LDN, Emma Dawson of Marks and Spencer, Beth Brickenden of London Union, Jennifer Doherty of Liberty Wines and Vicky Stevens-Clarkson of Atlas Fine Wines. 

Photo courtesy of Clara RubinNational Training Manager at Berkmann Wine Cellars

From left: Hannah van Susteren or Atlas Fine Wines/Women in Wine LDN, Regine Lee of Liberty Wines/Women in Wine LDN, Emma Dawson of Marks and Spencer, Beth Brickenden of London Union, Jennifer Doherty of Liberty Wines and Vicky Stevens-Clarkson of Atlas Fine Wines. 

When asked about what wine buying entailed, several common themes emerged from all the panellists. They work closely with their counterparts in forecasting and sales to source the right wine that will not only work from a price point of view, but will also give the consumers value, or as Vicki put it aptly, “relevancy to their lives”. Buyers are no longer bringing in wine and relying on consumers to just accept their selling points, instead they are focused on what consumers want from the product. Another similarity is their heavy involvement in forecasting and quality control. On top of this, they firefight supply chain problems and currency fluctuations; juggle the constant priorities of working with stores, consumers and dealing with producers, as well as the added pressure to be on top of market trends. 

Emma discussed the approach that Marks & Spencer has in creating their range; 

“If we are doing the same thing as all the other supermarket retailers, there would be no point in us existing. We need to go above and beyond and offering customers something that much more special and exiting. I like being a maverick sometimes.”

She then spoke about how she sources wine from far flung places like Japan and Brazil, finding the 'sweet spot' when tapping into consumers’ interest in taking a punt on something new and carefully balancing the right price and intrigue to get the sale. 

Jennifer provided some key insights in to building Liberty Wines’ range, with their ultimate goal being to bring the best producers from a region on-board. She highlighted the ethos of the teams is to find wines that the sales team are also passionate about - inspiring them to connect new wines with their customers. The importance of quality control was discussed a great deal. It was clear from the discussion that buyers are not only accountable to the bottom line, but also to the consumers who need to be reassured that they will get a product that is not faulty and can be consistently relied upon.

Beth provided insights into the important aspects of buying wine for a pioneering on-trade channel of street food markets.  The varied customers who eat at Street Feast are now people who are extremely knowledgeable about food and want the wines on offer to compliment this style of food.

She highlighted that following the trend of organic and biodynamic wine, people are “now looking for wine from unusual and from non-traditional winemaking countries like Turkey and Lebanon, which is also a reflection on how people are becoming more adventurous with food.” 

wine glass2.jpg

Vicki gave a fantastic overview of buying wine for the fine wine market and its challenges: limited supply, the need to be reactive to consumer trends and demand, stiff competition from UK brokerages and international fine wine marketplaces. She also discussed the need to ensure that in the age of technology and emergence of online competitors such as Vivino, fine wine merchants need to make sure they add value to the consumers’ purchasing experience by providing spot on advisory assistance as well.

The discussion then turned to topical themes and what is making wine buying challenging today. Not surprisingly, Brexit was discussed in detail.

Other very juicy topics in our Q&A covered changing role of the La Place de Bordeaux on international markets, climate change’s impact on vintage variation and the long-term sustainability of winemaking and the competition wine has from craft beer.

It was clear from all of the panellists that in the world of wine buying, relationships are key. The supplier must understand the business and really get your customer for the chain of supply and demand to be successful - whether you are a huge supermarket or a street food specialist. 

All in all, it was a very informative evening with a fantastic group discussion.

 Photo courtesy of  Victoria Daska l, Project Manager at World of Fine Wine

Photo courtesy of Victoria Daskal, Project Manager at World of Fine Wine

Special thanks... to Liberty Wines for hosting Women in Wine LDN and to our wonderful panellists. Cheers!

Up Next... We have an events lined up for December and January. Location and further details will follow shortly. 

What are we now...  In just a year we are 160 women strong representing over 50 companies within the industry. Please do extend invitations to your colleagues, contacts and friends; it has been incredible to see this community take shape and we want it to continue to grow. 

Go on and… Chat to us on Twitter.