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Do wine subscription services really save you money?

Wine's popularity in Singapore has soared through the sky in the past few years. In just 10 years, wine consumption in the country has grown by more than 5x from $187mn in 2008 to well over $1bn 2018. Now, with the rise of "subscription economy," companies like WineMasons and the French Cellar are offering subscriptions that provide a convenient access to new, good quality wines that can be hard to find in Singapore. However, are they really good value for the money you pay? We've crunched the numbers to figure out their value.

On the Surface, They Seem to Help You Save Money

Among wine subscription services in Singapore, we only found the French Cellar to provide both the subscription price and an a la carte pricing for their wines. Using these figures, we were able to calculate that the subscriptions provide 8-35% of savings from a la carte pricing, depending on the package. For example, their "Vineyard Gems" plan provides 2 bottles every month for S$88/month under their annual plan. Judging from their price range, this annual subscription likely provides 2 bottles that they normally sell for S$68, meaning the plan saves S$48 from S$136 (35% saving) you would normally have to spend to purchase those bottles separately. We also found that the percent savings declines with more premium plans, though the absolute dollar savings do increase to up to S$70 per month.

Deeper Analysis Shows Wine Stores Actually Charge Lower Markup

While the math above seems quite attractive, a deeper look actually reveals that there's more to this than meets the eye. It's no secret that wines cost exorbitantly more in Singapore than they do overseas due to various factors like shipping costs and import duties. However, these subscription services seem to be charging a much higher markups than do other wine shops in Singapore. For example, we found 2 wines that the French Cellar sells for S$68 in Singapore to cost just about S$9-S$13.5 overseas in the US or France, representing a mark-up of 5-7.5x. In contrast, we found some of the wines sold by the Straits Wine Company, WinesOnline and Vinofomo to be marked up by about 3-5x, though some of this difference may be accounted for by free delivery services provided by the subscription companies.

True Value of Subscription: Rare Wines, Curation & Convenience 

Still, this is not to say that these wine subscription services are not great value. In fact, they offer something that other wine shops will not: rare wines curation & convenience. In fact, we could not find any of the wines offered by the French Cellar or WineMasons at online stores of other wine stores like the Straits Wine Company, WinesOnline or Vinofomo. In particular, WineMasons specifically mentions on their site that they only carry "exclusive and artisanal wines sourced from small quality producers," while the French Cellar seems to provide certain French wines exclusively in Singapore, meaning these wines would be rather difficult for individuals to acquire in Singapore on their own.

Last but not least, these services send wine to your home without a separate delivery fee for maximum convenience. In contrast, other local wine shops generally have a rather high bar to qualify for a free delivery.

Other Ways to Save on Wine

For Singaporeans who thoroughly enjoy their expensive hobby of wine consumption, there are other ways for them to save besides buying in bulk or signing up for a subscription. First and foremost, Changi's duty free actually charges a very low markup. For example, we found Reserve Sepciale Barons de Rothschild Bordeaux Rouge, which costs S$49.5 at Changi, to cost about S$40 in France, representing a markup of only about 24%.

Another way is to utilise rewards credit cards. Since supermarkets & their specialty wine shops are popular place for Singaporeans to purchase alcohols, credit cards that provide rebate or miles on groceries could help you save at least 2-10% on your wine purchases. If you tend to shop for wine online either through online shops or subscription services, online shopping credit cards could also be a good bet for additional source of savings.

Written by Duckju Kang for Valuechampion.

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