Why close the shop and what next.
Why did I close the Scarlet Wines shop? At first sight it might seem like a retreat or a failure, but I don't think so. The real reason is that the way we all shop is rapidly changing. Like it or not, internet shopping means we all do things differently.
The perfect example of this is the hardware shop. Imagine the countless bits and bobs required in that sort of shop; M8 x 80mm cheesehead set screws, canted galvanised, heavy-duty, gate hinges. How many thousand sizes, materials and thicknesses of washer would you need? The list is literally endless. Physical shops are not a great solution, but the internet makes this simple. The end result is concentration; fewer shops, each with a bigger range.
What does this mean for wine? What is the point of a local wine shop when you can find everything you need online?
For supermarkets and convenience stores the answer seems to be simplification. If you look now in your Co-op, Spar or even large supermarket, the wine range is extraordinarily limited: few grapes, limited price range, so many styles missing altogether. Shopping in these places is often based on the horrible idea of wine brands - stand up 19 Crimes.
Search online and the first thing you find are the big, online wine specialists like Laithwaites, Majestic and Virgin. I mean though Virgin? Really? Who would give that man yet more money to spend on his rockets and jets? Incomprehensible. What you immediately find is that the offer from these companies is all about price: discount, multi-buy deals, sign up for our regular bundle. When a company just starts talking about price I always feel something has been lost. Where is the genuine excitement about the wine?
So what is Scarlet Wines doing that is better than all this? First and last we remain in love with wine, in all its impossible variety and troublesome, joyful complexity. I never want our website to be all about money; it is and always will be about wines that I am excited to drink, particularly if they are also a little unusual or interesting in some way.
In practical terms this means our website now has three distinct categories of wine.
The first I have called “what we are drinking”. This is restricted to twelve wines at any time, often they will be available in small quantities only. These are the real gems that have turned up as we sift the wonders of the wine world. Price for these will usually be in the £15 to £30 range.
The second section is what I am calling our "Core Collection". These are around another 100 wines - I am trying very hard to keep it to a manageable number! These are wines that simply represent excellent quality for their price regardless of style and to some extent also regardless of price. For example a great value Grand Cru wine from Alsace will always command a higher price, but to be in my selection it needs to be excellent value for that price.
The third section is “Stock Clearance”. These are wines that I am selling a little cheaper than usual to make space for new stock. There is nothing wrong with any of them, and if you are looking for something great for the price you might do well to start here. Unless I heave really miscalculated (always possible) there will be limited numbers of these wines and once they are gone they are gone.
The final big difference between Scarlet Wines and other websites is that our focus remains firmly on local delivery. We would much rather be delivering wine ourselves on the cargo bike than shipping it all over the UK. To encourage this delivery to TR26 remains permanently free of charge.
I hope you enjoy the new way to shop with Scarlet and Sam and I look forward to bringing you something delicious before too long.
Enjoy your wine!