DTC Wine Shippers Come In All Shapes and Sizes – Why Your Winery Should Care

Just like wineries themselves, DTC fulfillment providers are quite different when you take a hard look at them. More times than not, size of the organization plays a big role in determining how they operate and the solutions they can offer their clients. Here’s an analogy: You need to buy a ladder so you can do some work on your house. Do you go to a smaller mom-and-pop hardware store, or one of the big national chains? On the other hand, are you better off with something in between? The answer depends, of course, on what you are trying to accomplish and what your needs are.

The same can be said of DTC shippers in the wine industry. Some are large “big box” operations, some are closer to the “mom-and-pop” style of business, and some, like Copper Peak, fill the in-between “bespoke” category. Each size has its own strengths and weaknesses.

So size does matter…because fit matters. If you try to use a vendor that is too large or too small, you may find that they just aren’t quite the right partner for a variety of reasons.

Let’s see how this plays out when it comes to DTC shippers in the wine space.

Warning Signs That Your DTC Wine Shipper is Too Small

Let’s look, first, at organizations that are smaller in size.

Smaller DTC shippers often advertise that they can provide a level of service and customization that you won’t be able to find with a larger organization. This is often true. But it also means that they probably work from a single location—most small DTC shippers simply don’t have a second or third location for forward staging. They are also less likely to have the resources to invest in the latest technologies for supply chain management, fulfillment, compliance, and so on.

All of the above means that smaller DTC shippers are really better suited to handling small volumes that are less time sensitive. This could be a good choice, then, for smaller wineries just testing the waters when it comes to selling wine DTC, or startups needing a good first home.

Some signs that a 3PL is too small for you, or that you have grown beyond your current DTC shippers capabilities, include:

  • Limited client services resources that don’t have clearly established back-ups plans (everyone takes vacations and is out sick right?)
  • Limited technology offerings that may not have real-time reporting, inventory visibility, or exception and compliance management tools
  • No data security policies and procedures
  • Single warehouse location that prohibits offering forward staging to reduce time in transit
  • Capacity issues during peak season
  • Lack of true kitting and customization services
  • Service Agreements that are ill conceived or omitting important safeguards

Problems with a DTC Shipper That is Too Big

A handful of large DTC shippers work exclusively in the wine space and they may not have these same limitations or issues. These companies are impressive, typically serving the medium to large wineries. They have flashy facilities, lots of employees, operations that use certain forms of automation with strict procedures, and in some cases try to be all things to all wineries (Comprehensive Provider).

That said, they also typically have outside investors that have a set ROI requiring minimum levels of throughput and efficiency, which means minimizing things like customization. They can get certain economies of scale but only by forcing wineries into a “one size fits all” model. Service can sometimes suffer, too.

Again, this might not matter for wineries or organizations where pumping packages out the door is the main focus. Regardless of the size of a winery, the signals that your DTC shipper is too big include the following:

  • Client services resources that don’t have the authority or information for quick response times
  • Internal department communication that is lacking, creating a “not my problem” effect
  • A company culture that is hard to understand or not consistent with your winery
  • Capacity issues during peak season; regardless of automation, one glitch can create an avalanche that is hard to recover from
  • Lack of true kitting and customization services
  • Service Agreements that bundle pricing and/or don’t have cancellation provisions, so if things go wrong there is no recourse for the winery
  • You feel lost in the shuffle or not appreciated

How to Find a Good ‘Fit’

Finding the right DTC shipper can be synonymous with the “Goldilocks Theory”, where trying to find the perfect match is important.  This means that size alone is not the only consideration, whether we’re talking about the size of the winery or the size of the DTC shipper. The correct fit is what matters. From experience, we can say that the vast majority of wineries can benefit from a DTC shipper that avoids both extremes: Not too big, and not too small.

This is precisely the niche we strive to fill at Copper Peak. There really isn’t anyone else quite like us. We are privately held and well capitalized, which means we have the resources to invest in the very best people, technology, multiple facilities, custom solutions, and the like. Many of our clients switch from smaller or larger DTC shippers because this is what they seek.

We specialize in craftsmanship fulfillment, where attention to detail, white glove service, impeccable execution, and branding services are an extension of the winery and their customers experience. We believe that every package can tell a story, and the same care that went into making the wine should go into packing and shipping the box.

The question, then, is this: Are we a good fit for you? That’s something we can’t answer outside of a one-on-one conversation. If you agree that is the next step, get in touch.