Sunday, September 30, 2012

Part I: The Long Term Future of US Wine Sales

Don Draper, the Middle Class, and the Mad US Wine Consumer

Economically speaking, a luxury good is one with a demand curve that's straight up and down and a commodity has a horizontal demand curve. Practically speaking there's a lot of gray between the two and Luxury for American's is easier to segment into "need to have" (a vacation camping close to home) and "want to have" (a vacation at the Hilton in Rome).

There was a time when luxury goods were that: Custom goods manufactured for the wealthy. Mass Luxury? At best that was just an oxymoron. Back in the day, lettuce was not a luxury good. It came in fresh iceberg or older iceberg. There were no field greens mixed in a gas sealed bag replete with mustard greens and escarole. But when the boys came home from a World War and the Boomers started popping out and growing up, America grew a large appetite for something more than 'need to have' products. We desired, wanted and coveted the Jones' stuff next store. An exploding middle class was the catalyst that gave the Mad Men out there license to pitch our wildest needs and wants, and we consumed our way to prosperity.

Today with a shrinking middle class, displays of wealth politically incorrect, a waning Boomer, and a $9 trillion dollar hit to the net worth of America's consumers in real estate losses, can we still have Mass Luxury goods like we used to and more important, will we be able to afford them, and even more important still, what does that mean for wine?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

How Will You Keep Up With Changes In DtC?

MJ Dale, KLH Consulting
This is part II of a piece on DtC by that most awesome of awesome women, Mary Jo Dale of KLH Consulting in Santa Rosa. (Check out the link attached to her name if you want to see what I mean by her awesomeness.)

Yes, you came to the right place. This is SVB on Wine, but as you know from last week, "A man has got to know his limitations," and MJ is leaps and bounds smarter than me when it comes to Direct Sales, CRM, Club Management, and current technology supporting all of that. Every time I hear her talk, I come away with something new. You have an opportunity to ask all the questions you want and not get charged her $5,000 an hour rate. (You just wasted $176 reading this.)

Enjoy Part II of Trouble in Paradise.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Is your Direct Program Punky?

Do Ya Feel Lucky ... Punk?
As Dirty Harry said, "A man's got to know his limitations." I know mine. I also know the importance of client acquisition, retention, and state of the art technologies that are available to retail wine operations and current thinking on integrating experience and product in DtC trade. But I’m no expert.

In a recent blog about CRM, tasting room, and DtC, I took a run at the topic and within the post tried to shame one "unnamed" expert into guest blogging for me to give you some street-level information. That shamed person is M.J. Dale of KLH Consulting in Santa Rosa, CA and she is one of the sharpest people I've met in the wine business.

So in a departure from the norm, while I'm away in Argentina MJ has graciously accepted my invitation to guest-blog and will offer a two-part piece on Direct Sales. I've handed her the keys to the car and she will be moderating the discussion, offering expert advice, and policing the rowdies... so you just watch yourself! 

Since Mary Jo makes a fair wage, it’s worth your time to get some free consulting out of her with your questions on the topic. You only have to ask yourself one question before you comment though: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya.... punk?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

2012-2013 Predictions on the Wine Business

Each year I take out my crystal ball, put on funny clothes and after my eyes roll into the back of my head for a sufficient amount of time, write Silicon Valley Bank’s State of the Wine Industry Report and make some predictions. I am a most fortunate soothsayer to be able to see so much of what is largely a private industry. Silicon Valley Bank has it's own data base of financial information, I produce various surveys throughout the year with more than 500 respondents, have direct contact with clients, prospects, suppliers to the wine business, relationships with distributors and large scale farmers, academia, media and I’m sure I’m missing an angle or two. That all helps to clear up the cloudy crystal ball.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Is The Wine Business Sustainable?

There is a lot of talk around the concept of 'sustainability' so much so that it loses its meaning. What makes a business - any business sustainable?

When you work in the wine business, you soon discover the reality is not the vision guests to wineries have. When a guest comes to a winery, they are greeted by owners and tasting room workers poised for hospitality. They have their best foot forward. And just like all of us, what you present to guests invited for dinner isn't reflective of the struggles you had during the day. In the same way, the wine industry puts out an image of a gracious lifestyle, but that's not the heart of the business nor is that what makes the business sustainable. This is a business that has its makeup and culture rooted in the reality that you really can't do this alone. At a minimum, you have to depend on God, Mother Nature, and luck to make a year. You have to depend on farm workers to execute and harvest on time in the right way. In fact its really harvest when that all comes together. That short window is all you get. That is a whole year's worth of sales and that intense period is the canvas that underpins the true culture of the community and in the end makes the wine business sustainable.