While much of the American wine industry sees their future on the Internet, and with mobile transactions, social media and Direct-To-Consumer (DTC) sales, one of the largest consumer wine festivals in America, the Boston Wine Expo, is holding tight to its brick-and-mortar, wholesaler/distributor roots and has banned DTC companies from exhibiting alongside an estimated 440 wineries from around the world.
Some 20,000 people are expected to attend tastings, seminars, special events and demonstrations at the two-day event Feb 15 & 16 at Boston’s Seaport World Trade center.
James Carmody, President of the Expo told Wine Industry Insight that, “When we started over 20 years ago, I reached out to the largest wholesalers and distributors in the state for support and they were willing to help make this a success.” Since then, he said, the Expo has expanded, as has the support from wholesalers and distributors. Carmody said that they have been the foundation of the show.
The Expo’s emphasis on the middle tier of the distribution chain and disdain for DTC does not sit well with Tom Wark, Executive Director of the American Wine Consumer’s Coalition.
“I can’t say that the Boston Wine Expo is barring anyone from exhibiting who visibly supports the direct shipment of wine in to Massachusetts,” said Wark in an email to Wine Industry Insight. “However, I can confirm that the organizers of the Boston Wine Expo have explicitly barred the American Wine Consumer Coalition from paying for a booth at the Expo and promoting the cause of direct shipping in Massachusetts.”
Carmody made it clear in a phone interview with WII that DTC operations are not welcome now, nor are they likely to be in the future: hinting that DTC companies are looking to freeload off the efforts of the Expo’s staunchest supporters and its board members who represent wholesalers and distributors.
“I have talked to the board about allowing direct shippers like wine.com and others,” Carmody said. “The board’s position is very clear that they have invested time and money to develop and promote brands locally and that they have built a franchise. They feel that direct shippers are unfairly trying taking advantage of all that work.
Carmody said that because of his board’s decision, the Expo would not allow direct shippers to exhibit.
“I have to respect their position, Carmody emphasized.
Wark’s email said, ‘It was made clear to AWCC [by the Expo staff] that this was the reason that the Expo organizers would not allow AWCC to use the Expo as a vehicle to communicate our message of advancing the right of consumers to have wine shipped directly to them from out of state wineries and wine retailers.
“As a result, AWCC is very disappointed with this decision,” Wark continued. “Not only does it prevent us from helping educate Massachusetts wine consumers on the very important issue of direct shipping that is now before the state’s lawmakers, but it also indicates an institutional effort to take even the smallest measures to protect wholesaler profits by preventing consumers in the state from having legal access to direct wine shipments.”
The Expo’s decision and opposition, said Wark, would not deter AWCC’s efforts to advance pro-DTC legislation in Massachusetts. Wark said that he has been “suggesting pro-consumer amendments to it, speaking with legislators, testifying in front of the legislature and helping AWCC members and others to communicate their own views on the issue of direct shipping.”
The Boston Wine Expo is run by the Boston Guild of Oenophilists, formed 23 years ago for the purpose of creating the Expo. Currently, The Officers and Board include: