Imagining life after - Angélique de Lencquesaing, managing director of iDealwine, the leading wine auction website:
“Our aim was to remain supportive of our partner winegrowers”
Angélique de Lencquesaing co-founded iDealwine in 2000 and is the company’s managing director. She met her partners Cyrille Jomand (president) and Lional Cuenca (joint managing director) at the Paris Stock Exchange. Since then, the threesome have turned the company into the leading website for wine auctions by volume and value in France (with 17.6 million euros in sales, i.e. a 37% market share) and the joint leader globally. Being able to draw on a database of 3,600,000 prices from an extensive range of listings gives the website very detailed insight into market trends and the ebb and flow of wineries’ popularity. The major findings from this analysis are compiled annually in the ‘iDealwine Auction Barometer’*.
Can you tell us about the different aspects of iDealwine?
We have two lines of business: wine auctions, which account for 75% of our revenues; and direct sales of allocations secured with 550 partner estates and of private wine cellars. In 2019, we hosted 42 auctions totalling 169,000 bottles with an average purchase price of 126 euros. Direct sales totalled 115,890 bottles bought at an average price of 53 euros. Our online sales start at less than 10 euros per bottle, but prices rise quickly as we market mature vintages. The quality of the wines we sell on our platform has drawn an increasingly international clientele and one in every two bottles is now sold overseas to around sixty countries. We have opened an office in Hong Kong and plan to open one in New York in the near future.
How did your sales perform during the crisis?
The auction side of our business, as well as the preliminary assessments it requires, had to be stopped for a while, as we could no longer welcome our customers or collect the private cellars due to be auctioned off. This was offset by direct sales, which rose by 64% in value and 75% by volume. More than 4,000 new customers ordered on iDealwine during this period. People had time on their hands and the situation was anxiety-inducing so they wanted to treat themselves. Life never completely comes to a standstill and customers continued to order. Our aim was also to remain supportive of partner winegrowers who were facing a challenging situation with loss of hospitality outlets. Initially, it was very complicated and we had major delivery problems. But we upheld our orders and placed more in the belief that we would find a solution. It's important to support our wine industry.
How about the auctions?
The auction side of the business posted fewer sales than last year (19 instead of 21), but the execution rate improved significantly. Consumers were more aggressive in winning bids and all the cellars were sold in a single sale (as opposed to the usual 2 to 3). Among the highest achievers, a bottle of 2009 Romanée Conti was sold for 16,578 euros and a 2009 assortment from DRC (Domaine de la Romanée Conti) fetched 46,910 euros.
Did the period throw up any ideas you intend to hold onto?
It endorsed our initial strategy of opening up to social media. It is essential that we put a face on our web presence. We have a staff of 45 passionate people and we cannot sell a product like wine in a detached way. Our aim is to establish a close bond with our customers. Digital technology allows us to rise above geographical restrictions and promote conversations between our customers and winegrowers. We have used social media to introduce Instagram lives with some partner estates and hosted our first Zoom e-tasting for members of our club. We felt that our clients needed us to communicate with them as much as possible to explain how we were coping with the situation.
How has your business resumed since the end of lockdown?
Since lockdown ended, we have been able to welcome our customers again and collect private cellars. Business resumed with a very large influx of sales requests, as many people now need cash flow. In terms of exports, our biggest regions - Hong Kong followed by England - are the most challenging at the moment. Fortunately, European countries are extremely dynamic and some of them are showing very strong potential.
* iDealwine Barometer of auction sales –the 134-page report price is 95 euros