Hong Kong wine merchant launches wine trading platform

Hong Kong-based wine merchant, Wine World, has launched a wine trading platform targeting wine buyers, private collectors and trade professionals with the ambition to turn it into the ultimate stock market exchange for wine.

A screengrab of Wine World Xplorer

Launched in October last year after nearly two years’ preparation, the platform named Wine World Xplorer (WWX) powered by Wine World has attracted 14,600 offer listings in France, the UK and Hong Kong so far with an aggregate portfolio value of HK$624.2 million, Mariana Lam, founder and managing director of Wine World, revealed to dbHK.

The platform, a cross between wine search engine WineSearcher.com, Liv-Ex and online wine auction house iDealWine, offers pricing benchmarks similar to WineSearcher.com, and allows its users to trade in three different currencies, namely the British Pound, the Hong Kong Dollar and the Euro.

Unlike WineSearcher.com or other online wine shops, Lam says the platform has the potential to link up all merchants and private collectors with physical stocks, cutting back on middlemen.

At the moment, the platform is powered by Wine World, a wine company founded by Lam in 2008, but “essentially, Wine World is just one of the thousands of merchants on WWX,” said the founder, appealing to wine merchants who are looking for another sales channel.

“This is a stock market for wine,” said Lam, adding that the goal is to allow WWX users to trade wine as “a commodity, an equality” and use the platform to benchmark against different prices.

However, she is quick to note that the number of wine merchants or sellers listed on the website is not what the company is after, but rather quality. “We want to get reliable merchants. We want quality not quantity so we are not too aggressive about it,” she reiterated.

Trading only in cases, the platform highlights its feature of real-time stock level of all wines on the website, reducing the possibility of fake listings, a problem that often plagues online trading platforms. 

The company makes money by subscription and commission fees through traded wines. And in the future, when WWX is fully developed, the company did not rule out the possibility of doing market research and data analysis based on platform users.

Once registered, buyers can benchmark prices with different sellers in France, the UK and Hong Kong, and select logistics options, according to the founder, who noted that in the near future, the company is going to introduce warehouse storage option for its users.

But similar to BBX, British merchant Berry Bros & Rudd’s online trading platform, trading is only limited to WWX users, merchants and collectors who store their wines with WWX.

Buyers, for instance, can check product invoice, images, seller information and location on the platform for tractability, said Lam, an important feature for assurance, given that the wine market is becoming invariably vast and global but oftentimes opaque.

When asked about provenance issues, a growing concern for wine buyers, Anty Fung, portfolio manager of WWX, commented, “This is a problem faced by all merchants really,” admitting the challenge of ensuring provenance in the wine trade and stressing that the company is documenting seller invoices for proof and origin.

“That’s pretty much all that we are doing and that’s all that we can be doing,” she stated.

When necessary, she added outside professionals would be brought in to assess the wines, but so far, no provenance issue has happened.

However, given that WWX is strictly a trading platform, “it’s also a buyer-be-aware thing. When we operate as a platform, we give people as much information as possible about who you are buying from.” Fung added. 

In March, the company is planning to roll out a series of updates to the platform as part of its ongoing development from storage to payment methods and an additional feature of a mobile phone scanable and traceable tag for specified cases.

 

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