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Let your wife know there’s now a wine shop next to Coldwater Creek!

WolfI’m Winston Wolfe.  I solve problems.

                        -Winston Wolfe, Pulp Fiction, 1994

Tom at Fermentation has a blog entry today on WineStyles a franchise wine retail concept.  His post was observational and open and he’s got his finger on the pulse of the world of wine with a pop culture infused filter.  I’ve commented on WineStyles before when I ran across a post about this franchise penetrating the Midwest—specifically the Ohio market; and, on the whole, I have been critical—for a couple of reasons—some petty, some valid on a larger scale.  As a singular post, I’ll bullet-point my assertions, mostly because I feel passionately that: 
                                              wine + franchise = bad idea

1)  How hypocritical is it that a wine store feature value, unique, niche, regional wine finds that are not mass-market, yet be a franchise concept—something that is not unique or niche. 

1.A)  If Wine Styles grew out of a local market where it delighted customers and desired to go national, I might hedge a bit, but, nah, that’s not the case—they started out as a franchise and  strive to propagate franchise stores.

2)  There is nothing unique about the concept—there is NO intellectual property that creates a barrier to entry; my guess is their real estate strategy is to go next to the Panera Bread store.

2.A)  As I mentioned in my earlier blog post on this, if any reader has a burning desire to start a wine store, please contact me.  I will write your business plan for you with water tight research and not charge you anywhere near the $25K they want as a franchise fee.

3)  I get nervous when the founder uses head shots from her former modeling career.  No, seriously, I used to work for a start-up in the Internet era and the founder was a first-rate narcissist—ultimately his hubris cost a lot of people a lot of money.   This is the petty comment ...

C4b_football_1 4)  The wine retailer purchases from their local distribution—so they are buying the same wine that everybody else stocks in town.  So, why spend the $25K for the franchise fee or the ongoing royalties—there’s no economies of scale—i.e. all of my fries, patties, shake mix, etc comes from Wendy’s. 

5)  An analogy used liberally in the tech space in the 1997 - 2001 timeframe was the gold rush mentality—the "first mover mentality."  The guy that got in first wins the prize.  That was quickly de-bunked and we’re now going through a very interesting v2.0 time period of the Internet—blogging being just a small portion of that new capability.  My point here is, with wine predicted to have exponential growth over the next 10 years (at least), the concept that can scale locally, regionally and then nationally hasn’t surfaced, yet.  In this game, I’d be willing to bet that 2nd, and maybe 3rd mover status will be the one that can grow to national mindshare.  Or, alternatively, I’d bet on Best Cellars for growing out of the East Coast. 

In truth, I have a completed business plan for a concept that I think is far superior, but would certainly not be franchised for a good period of time.  Perhaps, I’ll post it one day in whole or in pieces like free Internet software and see what kind of feedback I get back. 

On the whole, with WineStyles and one or two others, I’m just not seeing much in the store design, merchandising system, or overall concept that is that interesting—particularly if your target is the over 40 moneyed-set.  Why start with a faux-upscale store for an uber-discerning crowd?


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