French online sales website Vente Privée has introduced wine to the UK version of its business for the first time.
Co-founder of Vente Privée, Xavier Court (l) and head of wine sales Emmanuel Imbert.
The website specialises in “flash” sales, with limited offers on everything from fashion, to cosmetics, travel and wine.
It is now one of the leading wine sales sites in continental Europe, selling 3.3 million bottles last year (up 30% on 2012) for a total of €36 million, which represents some 3% of its total sales.
It began selling wine in 2006 in Europe but although it has been live in the UK for around five years, it was only last month that it trialled its wine sales here – with a view to more permanent offerings from now on.
The test sales with wines from Chapoutier and Louis Latour each raised between £20,000 and £30,000 and with a database of 600,000 people in the UK – some 200,000 of them regular users – co-founder Xavier Court told the drinks business: “We thought the size of our base was big enough.”
Each sale typically lasts three to five days and once it is over then it is unlikely to be repeated that year.
Court said that the aim was not to be a discount channel but to promote wines and encourage consumers to seek out the wines from their official distributors if they liked what they had bought.
“We don’t want you to wait for the one time in the year you can buy Chapoutier from us,” he said. “We want you to buy it from your local store.”
He said too that he believed that the future of retail was not either online or offline but one which combined the best of both.
He admitted that taxes and shipping would make the wines less cheap than such sales are in France but the wines are still sold with a saving of 30% to 40%.
As the wines are only sold briefly and very rarely, he said many producers and distributors did not mind their brands being sold at a discount as they have found it to be an effective promotional tool which is what Vente Privée intends it to be.
Vente Privée has around 300 wineries signed up for its sales, including Château Giscours and Haut-Brion, Albert Bichot, Michel Chapoutier and Louis Latour.
Court added that he thought, and hoped, that wine sales would attract more users to the site but that there was “no financial objective” for the first year.
“We’re hoping for £2m in the first year,” he admitted, “but if it’s less we don’t mind and if it’s more good.”
Nonetheless, in the long run he stated that if wine sales accounted for 3% of total sales he was confident that those in the UK alone could be as high as 5%.
Asked whether he thought the business model would need to be different in the (as he acknowledged) competitive world of UK online retailing to the rest of Europe he said no.
“Vente Privée is all about pleasure and impulse,” he explained. “It’s exactly the same concept in every country. Even if we were to go to China one day we wouldn’t change.
“People like to buy brands and buy them cheaply.”