Direct-to-consumer wine retailer Naked Wines has thrived amid increased demand for affordable luxury and the offer of community in isolation.

In many ways, the pandemic crisis has been a validation of the membership business model of the brand, which separated from brick-and-mortar retailer Majestic in 2019 (although Majestic has also prospered during lockdown).

Jo Gunn, growth director at Naked Wines, explained at the recent Advertising Week virtual conference the challenge the brand had faced – after establishing COVID-19 security in its distribution and warehouse facilities – in meeting the demand from a surge of new customers.

She joked that much as she wishes it was all down to her team’s hard work, “people just wanted to drink wine, I think, to take the edge off an unnerving and difficult time”; they reached for Naked’s product as an affordable luxury.

“People are a little less price-conscious,” she explained. “They’re treating themselves to more affordable luxuries, whether it’s a lovely cheese from my local deli, whether it’s organic meat, whether it’s a better bottle of wine, just because they want to spoil themselves.

“Or perhaps it’s because they are happy to spend a bit more to shop locally and support their local community.”

That support aspect has proved crucial to both sides of Naked’s platform. Early on, Naked established a “Thirsty Toosday” wine club over Zoom, where people could turn up to an online event together and share a glass of wine (with a live chat) with winemakers.

And it also found some good PR by creating a “Naked Rescue Fund”, which the firm made available to winemakers outside its roster, whose hospitality buyers had dried up.

“Angels [the name for subscribing members] responded so well to this,” said Gunn. “Thanks to their support we managed to help 31 wine makers around the world.

“I think that’s been quite powerful [and] people are really empathetic to the plight of others at the moment.”

For more details, read WARC’s report: Naked Wines catches a youthful wave during the pandemic.

Sourced from WARC