Published 14 April 2012
UPDATE: Sadly, Lot 18 decided to close its UK operations at the end of July 2012. I wish the team and company (they are still trading in the US and France) all the best for the future.
Can a successful online wine retailer in the US replicate their business in the UK using the same formula? The wines they feature may be different (to cater for different tastes), but is it more complicated than that? Does a UK customer respond to certain marketing strategies the same as our friends across the pond?
These are interesting questions, and some which will soon be answered thanks to online wine retailer Lot18. With successes in the US and France, the company is attempting to replicate their proposition in the UK. A “members-only marketplace for the discovery of exceptional wines”, Lot18 was founded in New York in late 2010 by Philip James (creator of snooth.com) and Kevin Fortuna. Will Armitage, General Manager of Lot18 Europe said,”We are all about access, curation and discovery of exceptional wines, sourced exclusively for Lot18 by our fifteen-strong global team of curators.”
Lot18 launched on 2nd March 2012 with a very impressive selection of wines (including Pontet-Canet 95, Rubicon Estate Blancaneux 09 & Sesti Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Phenomena 05). They have since featured wines ranging from £10 to £100 a bottle, but they’re certainly not going to be doing a 3 bottles for £10 in the near future. However, with specialist suppliers in the UK already covering all price points (think Berry Bros & Rudd, Bibendum, Corney & Barrow, Majestic, Naked Wines, Laithwaite’s) and all selling online, where does Lot18 fit in? What is their unique selling point?
Armitage says that Lot18 is the only UK wine business offering a private sales concept to wine buying: “this is a very popular means of purchasing wine in France and the US, and is already proving to be popular with our early members. We only ever offer a small selection of expertly sourced wines at any one time, so that our members need not get lost in a wine supermarket, rather trusting us to deliver the best possible wines to their door.” He validates this by adding that “only 6% of the wineries tasted by our expert global team of curators will appear on our website. Our members can trust us that for any particular price range and grape varietal, we shall only offer the very best wines. Whether hidden gems or household names, we only offer wines we like. In essence, we take the risk out of buying wine.”
I can confirm that their wines are of outstanding quality (I’ve tasted them on two occasions already and subsequently bought from them), but will be interested to see how the UK audience takes to their unique selling approach.