Finding smarter ways to run the business, along with serious wine buyers’ reluctance to give up their favorite Chardonnays or Merlots even in a recession, helped Wine Commune LLC grow web sales year over year by 19% to $25.5 million in 2009 from $21.5 million in the prior year.
Like many other online retailers selling luxury goods, Wine Commune, which operates JJBuckley.com, No. 337 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide (a PDF version of the company’s financial and operating profile can be ordered by clicking on its name), saw sales slow significantly in late 2008. “We were dealing with the pucker effect after the financial crisis hit home,” says CEO Michael Stajer.
But finding ways to run a smarter business, especially by improving customer service and cheaper delivery, helped the company to grow its online wine sales in 2009. In its core market of California, Wine Commune now offers customers an improved overnight delivery option, and at a lower rate. Wine Commune now uses a regional carrier, Golden Gate Overnight, to make deliveries by the next morning to its customers in California, Arizona and Nevada. The overnight charge with a guaranteed morning delivery for a case of wine to a JJBuckely.com customer in those states is now about $12 to $14, compared with a previous rate of $18 to $20 from a major carrier such as FedEx Corp. “Regional customers like the option of having their wine delivered the next morning and with a less expensive delivery charge,” says Stajer.
Online shoppers at JJBuckley.com are serious and consistent wine buyers, which also helped to keep sales steady in 2009, says Stajer. “We saw customers become more price-conscious and shop smarter,” he says. “But as the year unfolded, their attitude became ‘my portfolio suffered, but I still have a job and I will keep on ordering wine.’”