About Me

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Dublin, Ireland
Hi, I'm Dermot Nolan, and I became a Master of Wine (MW) in 1997, and resigned from the Institute of Masters of Wine in 2023 after being an MW for exactly 26 years. I opened a wine shop in Dún Laoghaire, Ireland, called The Wine Library, which closed in 2018, and this is my personal wine blog. I will do my utmost to be fair and responsible in my posts – please read my Who Pays article in re the ethics of wine trips and writing. I have worked in wine education, retail, and consultancy since 1990. I was a Director of the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) from 2008 to 2014 and was also a member of the Events Committee, founder of the Trips Committee, and member of the Governance Committee. Having had problems with potentially libellous comments from unidentifiable posters, I now require that if you post a comment, you must identify yourself properly or it won't be published. Please note that I do not review products or services on request so kindly don't ask. I value my independence and I believe my readers (few that they may be) do so also.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wine education - why bother?

As someone who makes a living from wine education I am naturally biased, so I'm likely to answer this question with something such as "It's fun", "It's social", "It's a useful skill". However, some years ago, the Wine and Spirit Education Trust of Great Britain (WSET) did some research in partnership with the now defunct Unwins to see whether wine education had any real value.

The research was carried out by taking triplets of Unwins stores which had similar demographics. Within each triplet, staff in one store got no training, staff in another got a basic course from WSET and staff in the third store got the wine training plus sales training. The results were quite impressive - in the stores where training of staff had taken place there was a noticeable increase in sales and profits: 11% sales increase in stores where staff had both wine and sales training, 6% sales increase in stores where staff received wine training and a 1% sales increase in the stores where no training took place at all.
The gist of this is that the outlook that training is a cost to a company rather than an investment is completely wrong. Companies which invest in training achieve better results: for example, after the September 11th attacks in the US airlines were under severe financial pressure and released staff to bring costs down; but Southwest Airlines increased its training budget - and its market share!
So, in these difficult economic circumstances the right thing to do is to train your staff. Think about it - it's unlikely that new staff will be hired in great numbers over the next four years so any increase in sales is only likely to come about by staff who are better able to sell your wines. Sales training is very important but so also is product knowledge - retailers and consumers know a fair bit about wine and won't simply accept product offers based on price alone. That WSET study found that £3,000 spent on staff training could deliver £42,000 in additional sales in 3 months. That's easily an investment as it has paid for itself many times over.
In the same study Wine Intelligence surveyed consumers who had taken a WSET course and found that they traded up in their wine purchases quite readily - not only had they more knowledge about wine they were also far more confident. So, the trade benefits twice from wine education: sales staff achieve better sales figures AND consumers trade up more readily.
This then leads to some simple questions in relation to the Irish wine industry - why is it that so few (i.e. none) of the wine importers require new staff to have a WSET qualification? Why did so few of these companies send existing staff onto WSET courses, especially since they were all subsidising the Wine Board of Ireland for 30 years? Why aren't they all queuing up to the new Approved Programme Providers in Ireland in order to train their staff?
Perhaps these are too difficult to answer - certainly, I never heard anyone ever address these issues over the last 10 years (or more!) but it's never too late to get in on the act - there are a substantial number of well-qualified APPs in Ireland so let's get going!


Unknown said...

So, as punters, the more we know, the worse off we are, financially?

"If I hadn't seen such riches, I could love with being poor"- to quote a a 90's song by "James".

Unknown said...

Interesting post. I am not sure why this is the case as in Ireland as it seems that in the UK the advanced cert is a minimum for most jobs.
In Ireland from my own experience of applying for jobs the main requirement is sales experience with the wine qualification being secondary or desirable not essential.
I also think there is a reluctance in all business to provide training and invest in staff, partly due to a reluctance to spend any money and also a reluctance to invest in staff who might leave. If you treat your staff like they are going to leave, then they surely will.