Friday, January 21, 2011

The Market

I think I almost died twice...

I have never been more attached to my GPS than this week, bobbing and weaving my little golf cart-like Prius through the backstreets of Brooklyn in search of this store and that store I had read about online. GPS firmly in my hand, placed front and center in my visage above the wheel, I was turned around more often than not (sorry, but satellite signals are not absolute), and after a long but good day I drove home back across Long Island. The ride allowed me to think a lot about my time management, but more importantly about Indie Wineries, about selling Indie, and about the correct path we want to take in growing the business.

Many clients have asked me where I see the wine market going in the near future, and the more I think about it, I see a very clear polarization happening.

One side of the businesses are moving heavy toward a franchise, or in-house franchise mentality. They're systematizing their business, drilling down on every cost to become more efficient, and squeezing more out of what they have by simplifying. In their wine, price has moved up to first or second place on their categorical list of what's important when buying. And what they bring to market is a view of wine that is the tried and true, at the best price, with a sale executed quickly, efficiently, and a service side based primarily on convenience.

I'm not knocking this way. It's very good business. It offers great value to the end customer, and the business is very sustainable with little to no waste. For Indie, it gets our wines into many hands and allows them to drink them- our overall most important goal: Taste the wine!

The other side of this polarization, is what I'll call "the little bookstore / custom coffee shop" mentality. Brick and mortar. One shop or restaurant, usually. Filled with oddities and intricacies in their product line. A staff that is driven by an eclectic passion for wine. An almost "all in the family" level of relationship that's built with each customer. This side of the polarization is not homogenized; it has crannies and contours, personalities, and spunk. The wines it offers are intellectual, and if not intellectual then they are certainly not commodities by any means. Although many owners of these businesses are highly efficient, there's an actual beauty in the non-system based operations they've set up.

I'm not saying that this is a better way to do business. But, in walking into these shops and restaurants the soul factor definitely feels higher; you easily get a feel that these businesses are as much about creating relationships as they are about selling wine.

Both businesses can move both quality and price based wines. So, which path is better? More important to Indie, where do I spend my time growing Indie? After that long ride, I came upon the answer: both.

Indie Wineries for both Summer and I is entirely about building relationships through the exploration of wine. It would be easy for us to say- we only deal with tiny, hand-sell based shops, but that would leave out many incredible relationships with people who are growing in a more systematized way. Long and short of it, if there's a connection, a respect, a shared energy, a passion for quality...that's where we're going to place our eggs. Fantastic, sounds easy, no?

No. The hard part of deciding to take that path is that it takes time to build relationships of that calibre. No one becomes a great friend in two 30 minute visits. Great, mutually respectful relationships take years of visits, and support. They are a commitment, as equal as the commitment that all of our producers have taken to working their vineyards and making great wine.

Yes, that stresses the business of Indie in the short term, but that's fine by me. We believe in turtle speed and a strong cornerstone.

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