Monday, March 26, 2007

Allocation

~In the 1990s I worked as a wine salesman for a distributor. My market was upstate New York, which spanned from Buffalo to Utica and all points south to Binghamton. I clocked about 40,000 miles a year.
~It was grueling work and so I dropped out after less than two years. While part of the grueling work was the extensive driving, another major part of it was the treatment that the market got, both from the distributor and from the wine producer representatives—neither seemed to want to give up the income but neither seemed to want to give over any attention to the market; not enough dsiposable income to make it worth their while to support with promotion or even tasting money.
~The most annoying—to me—lack of focus on the upstate New York market was in the way product was either withheld or dribbled to it.
~By withholding product from my market it meant that I was working as hard as other sales people but getting less support and thereby less income opportunity. What was worse, however, is that the market missed out on a lot of good stuff and buyers hated me for it.
~Back then I noticed that a lot of what grew to become so-called cult wine was actually a kind of marketing plan. Producers would purposely produce small volumes of certain wines, probably also purposely produced them in a style that certain wine critics were going to love, and then after gaining the slavishly sought after high points of the critics the wines would be slapped with equally high prices and low, low allocation numbers.
~Mainly, allocations went first to restaurants—the top, expensive, usually grossly snobbish restaurants. Hotels would get allocations too, provided they had good, recognized names.
~Big retailers were next on the list, but only big retailers who could guarantee sales of other products in the distributor’s portfolio; after them, came the rest of the retail trade, which generally hardly ever got to see the wines.
~I am out of that end of the business—thank the gods—but I assume not much has changed about it. I am, however, giddy over the way the allocation system has seeped into the direct to consumer trade.
~Makes me wonder how easily consumers can be manipulated when I read gushing wine geeks online begging for their allocation of a generally high-priced, high profile product. It’s really saddening to me. But then, I am the type of person who won’t dine in a restaurant that forces me to wait in a long line before I can have a table, I won’t go see a movie that takes an hour and a half of waiting in line to secure a ticket, and I stopped going to wine tasting events that treat people like cattle for slaughter.
~Finally, I won’t beg anyone to take my money—but I’m funny that way.
NOTE: I am going to be away for a few days and so there will be a longer than usual gap between this and my next entry. I expect to get the next blog entry up by April 1.

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
March 2007. All Rights Reserved

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