Wine Society appoints new logistics firm for Brexit stock

UK wine merchant The Wine Society has appointed an external warehousing firm to store the additional stock it has brought in in response to the challenges of Brexit and an increase in its membership.

The Wine Society’s Pierre Mansour

The Stevenage-based wine mutual, which is owned by its members, has appointed Norfolk’s logistics firm Johnston Logistics UK to handle the additional warehousing it needs to cater for the increase in stock.

Speaking to the drinks business, The Wine Society’s head of buying Pierre Mansour said the company had brought forward an extra 60,000 cases of wines to gives the society “extra breathing room” and to act as a buffer before and after the 29 March Brexit deadline.

“We put in some quite robust preparation plans in October last year, and took the decision we should plan for a hard Brexit. Because our focus as a business is entirely on the experience of our customers, our preparation plans have been put together to maintain the availability of all of our popular wines and maintain all the levels of service to mitigate any disruption that many occur over the March deadline,”he told db.

“We’d still be using Johnston Logistics Brexit-aside, but the amount of capacity we now need is much greater.”

The starting point for the plans was the WSTA’s general advice to to stockpile 20% more stock than usual, Mansour said, but the Society has stockpiled up to around 50% more stock of its most popular lines, with less than 20% on the “tail-end” of the 1,500-strong range.

“It’s the top selling wines that make up the majority of those 60,000 cases,” he said. “We are shipping an extra amount of stock out of our normal sequence of shipping and getting it in early.”

“Putting aside Brexit, trading has been growing over the last few years and we’ve got more volumes coming through so needed more storage capacity,” he added.

The number of active, engaged members of the Wine Society (not counting new members) has increased by around two and a half percent, he said, which had had an impact on volumes

“We’re a business that does a lot of different things, we purposefully invest in keeping stock wines and hold them till they’re ready to drink so we can give our members stock that has been honourably aged when it’s ready, there’s also been growth in the in-bond reserves in which our members can store their wines with us, which combined with the growth in membership has all meant storage at our Stevenage warehouse has decreased,” he explained.

The Wine Society was one of only a few suppliers that prided itself on not sub-contracting its deliveries and warehousing, and retained its own fleet of drivers and vans for free home delivery, along with the option of free named-day delivery or next day delivery by a third party carrier and a new click and collect service.

Mansour said the majority of the stock would continue to be held in the firm’s Stevenage warehouse and confirmed the appointment will not change its existing delivery models.

Johnston Logistics UK imports, stores and distributes more than 20,000 pallets of alcoholic drinks every year for its clients, who include independent producers and major supermarkets.

In April 2017, The Wine Society rolled out a click and collect service in a bid to appeal to millennials using logistics provider Pass My Parcel. Attracting younger, discerning drinkers was a key business focus, the Society’s head of buying Pierre Mansour told the drinks business at the time.

“One of the things that newer younger wine drinkers find challenging with the Society is that lack of ability for instantaneous things – so we’ve addressed that,” he said.

However, Mansour told db the service has proved to be more popular with the Society’s core demographic.

“One of the factors to drive it was research we’d done suggesting that the younger demographic was asking for it,” he said. “But the data suggest, it’s anything but the younger cohort, it’s the core members that use it, who have an average age of 55, so that was quite an interesting learning. You do market research and as the Netflix boss pointed out, consumers have aspirational values about what they say they want, but then actually do something different.”

“We will continue to offer it, as it’s a very important part of offering a comprehensive service to our members,” he said.

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