Passion Before Profit

Passion Before Profit

What do we mean by 'passion before profit?'

Being a co-operative means that we're able to put our 145,000 active UK members at the heart of everything we do. The decisions we make are guided not by a need to churn profits to pay external shareholders (we don't have any!) but by a set of Core Principles that we've lived by for over 145 years.

How we work

We don't maximise profits

No external shareholders = freedom to do the right thing

Our buyers are free to buy wines they believe in

We don't chase profit-making names or quick-buck trends

We don't do fake discounting

We believe in everyday honest pricing instead

Our growers trust us

Because we pay them fairly, and always pay on time

Our Member Services Team aren't incentivised with bonuses or commission

So they'll never hard sell or up-sell! It's all about the right wine for you

Our margins are among the lowest in the business

And we put profits back into lower prices and better services for our members

Why we're proud to be a co-operative

Being a co-operative is at the heart of everything we do at The Wine Society, and we're proud of the way it's helped us to run our business over the last 145 years; and when we say our business, we don't mean a CEO or board of directors. As a member-owned mutual, this business belongs to you. That's why it's so important that we keep our shared passion for good wine at the heart of the way we do things.

You may have noticed that we work a little differently to other wine merchants. We won't try and 'upsell' you a bottle of wine, we don't prioritise high-spending members and we don't buy wines that we can't – hand on heart – say that we believe in. That's because at our core is a set of non-negotiable, time-honoured principles that keep us distinctive, true to ourselves (and most importantly keeps you, our members – and delicious wine, obviously! – as our motivation to keep doing what we do.

What is a co-operative?

Co-operatives are truly special businesses: run by and for their members, a co-op doesn't answer to external shareholders, so doesn't need to focus all its efforts on churning profit. Instead co-ops are driven by shared principles – in our case, to champion the joy of good wine for our wine-loving members across the UK.

  1. A co-operative is owned by its members, for its members, not by external shareholders

  2. Members get a meaningful say in how the co-operative is run, with decisions made by an elected Committee

  3. Because maximising profit isn't a priority, profits can go back into making services better and prices fairer, both for the members and the people making our wine

Why it works for us

It's not just fairer prices and more personal service that make being part of a co-operative so special. We love that our members feel a real sense of pride and ownership of The Wine Society. After all, we each have a stake in how our business is run and when you exercise your rights as a member we're able to go ever-further in our mission to source the best of the world's vineyards at excellent prices.

Our strongly held principles

Whenever big (or even small) decisions are taken at The Society, we always refer to our core principles. These are a list of non-negotiable rules that make The Society special. They exist to keep us distinctive and true to ourselves, and are at the heart of the way we're run. They include:

  • We don't maximise profits: we don't have to please external shareholders and can put profits back into fairer prices and better service for you.
  • We sell only to members: we don't make profits or compromise our principles by selling to restaurants, wine bars or otherwise 'on-trade'.
  • A member can own a maximum of one share: this means that every member is equal, and no member has an unfair advantage when it comes to buying wine or the service they receive.
  • Our buyers choose wine based on quality and value alone: our buying team are truly independent, only interested in buying bottles they think you'll enjoy.
  • We don't share our members' data to third parties for marketing purposes: so you'll never receive dodgy-looking emails from unknown providers!

Everyday Fair Pricing

In most companies the 'right' price is the highest one you can get away with!'

Louisa Peskett, Head of Merchandising

'I've been a Merchandiser for 25 years so I've seen first-hand that in most companies the 'right' price is the highest one you can get away with! But here we aim for the fairest – nearly always the lowest - price possible. We aim to make enough money to provide the wines and services that our members expect and no more.

I love that one of the guiding aims of the business isn't to grow or make bigger profits but to reduce our margins. In 2012, for example, we performed better than expected and made more money than we forecast. This windfall wasn't squandered on dividends and bonuses, but instead we simply reduced our prices to return the money to members. It was the right thing to do.'

Everyday Fair Pricing vs 'Fake' discounting

A discount always has to come from somewhere, usually by inflating the cost of something else! We want to treat members with respect by avoiding dubious price-slashing or inflated discounting. We aim to offer fair, transparent, competitive and sustainable prices for all our wines, taking an 'everyday low price' approach.

Occasionally we'll be able to offer discounts or special offers on our wines thanks to the generosity of our suppliers, to encourage you to explore an exciting new style or region. We always aim to let you know where the discount has come from in these cases.

The Society's Promise

We've been sourcing delicious wines for well over a century, so we like to think you'll enjoy every bottle you buy with us. But we know that might not always be the case, so if you don't like a wine you've bought from us for any reason, just let us know and we'll arrange a credit, replacement or refund (see here for more).

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