The Wine Society has been selling quality wines at affordable prices since 1874. “We’re one of the original Victorian co-ops,” says Public Relations Manager Ewan Murray.
During Co-op Fortnight (24 June to 7 July 2019), the online wine retailer will bring together some 700 of its 140,000 active members at a number of events up and down the country.
They’ll be tasting Italian wines in London and Manchester, pairing wines with vegetarian dishes in Stevenage and barbecue food in Cheltenham. They’ll also be touring the society’s Stevenage headquarters to learn about the co-op and how it works.
“Being online it would be easy to be at arms’ length, but we want to get in contact with our members. They feel more part of the co-op if they meet with other people,” says Ewan. “A lot of co-ops are local, and although we’re one of the country’s major wine merchants, we like to maintain that local feel. That’s why we hold 150 events a year from Inverness to Truro, from Belfast to Canterbury.”
“Members feel a sense of belonging,” Ewan adds. “Some of our wines are private label ranges, and after tasting sessions, members often say, ‘I really liked our Chablis’ or ‘our Chianti’. Also, allowing customers to talk to one and another, it’s not usually what people do, but our members have their own online community, where they chat with each other and share ideas.
“One of the great things is that you get two to three generations of same family at these events. So you see parents, grandparents and children sharing the same interest. And membership can be passed down through the family too. It becomes part of your estate and goes onto the next generation. So there are shares that were bought in 1875 that are now on their fifth of sixth generation of use.”
The co-op was set up in 1874 after the last of the great exhibitions – at the Royal Albert Hall. There was a left over barrel of Portuguese wine the exhibitors didn’t want to take back. “So it was decided to create a mutual society and sell it on at the lowest prices, and that’s what we continue to do today,” Ewan explains.
Proud to be a co-op, the Wine Society is supporting Co-operative Fortnight and is getting the message out to its members – and beyond – about the benefits of doing business co-operatively. “The great thing about being a co-op is putting passion before profit. We care about customer service – and the bottom line is not the be all and end all.
“We’re putting our weight behind Co-op Fortnight and letting people know through our social media channels about the benefits of being a co-operative. For us, it’s about the overall experience and the quality of the product. You feel like you are helping people. In an overtly commercial world, it’s fantastic to have something that has old fashioned values.”