K&L’s wine club program dates back to the early nineties when we had one “Best Buy” service run by our owner’s wife as a fun little side hobby. There were a few perks to the membership, some discounts to be had here and there, but it was mostly about exploration and having fun. It was also apparently quite a successful enterprise because that one club eventually grew into two, then two clubs grew into three, and today we have five different wine club selections if you count the Italian and Champagne programs run by my colleagues Greg St. Clair and Gary Westby. There are thousands of K&L club members at this point, receiving their two bottles with each shipment along with a newsletter that tells the stories behind each bottle (a newsletter that I’m very much looking forward to revamping and improving).
In a wine world where the term “club” often refers to some sort of pricing advantage or member discount program, I’m careful with my terminology when I describe the K&L options to our customers. “It’s not so much a wine club as it is a wine-of-the-month club,” I often tell people, explaining that our membership is more geared around monthly curation rather than special deals and savings. We don’t track your purchases, or give you points for what you buy and there’s no plastic barcode to keep on your keychain that we scan for discounts when you check out. There is a bit of special pricing for club members, but historically it’s only been for the wines featured in the monthly selections. For example, if you like the wine you receive in your club shipment you can buy additional bottles for a special club member price. The discounts, however, rarely—if ever—have applied to regular, in-stock inventory selections.
That was always by design though. At K&L we’ve never offered case discounts or deep volume pricing to motivate our customers. Our focus has always been about guaranteeing a quality of wine, customer service, and product knowledge that stood out amongst the crowd, letting our private selections and exclusive deals do the talking. That being said, I’ve watched our model of retailing become the standard over the last decade with every bar, corner store, and supermarket chain from here to Bangor, Maine jumping into the small production, limited edition, private selection game. It’s no longer enough to simply curate and put your personal stamp of approval on a product. Our customers know we care about them, they know we’re working our butts off to find them the best bottles we can, but they still want to feel special at the end of the day. They want a retail program that combines quality, exclusivity, careful selection, a great story, and special pricing. If just anyone can get the same stuff at the same price, then what’s the point of being a club member, right?
We’ve talked about doing a whiskey club for years in the K&L spirits department, but the problem we could never get past was curation consumption. You see, the folks who buy and consume multiple bottles of whiskey per month generally don't want to be locked into a monthly club selection where someone else does the choosing. They know what they want. They search online, read about new releases, and do their own homework for the most part. The people who would be interested in a monthly subscription typically don’t blow through booze at the same rate, so ultimately it becomes too much volume, month after month. I’ve been letting this dilemma stew on the backburner for the last few years, trying to decide what the best recourse was, and today I think I’ve finally found the solution.
I decided when I woke up on January 1st 2018 that I was going to create the perfect wine clubs for people who drink both wine AND spirits. Drinking down two bottles of wine per month has never been a challenge for our customers, so why not just add in some incentive discounts as a cherry on top? For example, you could be a member of our original “Best Buy” club, pay your $20 per month for the standard two bottle selection, but still have access to additional discounts that you could choose to purchase or not. It's up to you. Personally, I like incentivizing exploration. I want customers to feel more comfortable taking a chance on something new or different, like the Bardstown Bourbon Company “Collabor&tion” Cask Strength Brandy Barrel Edition we brought in from the Kentucky upstart late last year. It’s still $125 a bottle for the general public, but if you’re a member of one of our wine clubs you can use your membership to take advantage of $99 special pricing. If you’re new to the “Best Buy” club, that $25 discount would more than pay for your first month right there (there is a three month minimum for new members).
That’s just for starters. Imagine when I start throwing other Bourbon casks in there, various Scotch deals, etc. You could probably grab enough discount incentives to pay for your entire year’s membership—and you still get the wine to enjoy, along with the newsletter and all the details.
There’s going to be a lot more than just additional spirits, however. I’ll be scouring for special Bordeaux prices, interesting imports from Italy and France, and God knows what else—gin, Tequila, sweet wines, beer, you name it. I’ll be throwing the entire kitchen sink at these clubs in 2018. My goal is to get 100% of you on board. I’m hoping the value of both our curated selections and the additional discounts will push you over the edge and make you want to take this journey with me. I want to create a service that lives up to the definition of that word: it serves the customer. If you don’t like wine, then this updated K&L club membership program probably isn’t for you. However, if you’re curious about wine, now’s the time. Those of you who want to learn about wine and spirits, while getting access to special deals and pricing, should contact me about signing up (or just click the link I embedded above).
It all starts February 1st. Buckle up.