Norwich firm Naked Wines toasts its new ‘angels’

Laura Hodges (blue top) celebrates joining Naked Wines with her friend Tina Dalzell, whio introduced her to the company Laura Hodges (blue top) celebrates joining Naked Wines with her friend Tina Dalzell, whio introduced her to the company

Tuesday, September 2, 2014
2:21 PM

An award-winning online wine retailer has become so successful it has had to start a waiting list for new customers or angels.

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Norwich teacher Laura Hodges, 33, was this week delighted to be among the first on the list to be signed up as angels by Naked Wines, which is based in The Close in the city.

Under its innovative business plan, known as crowdfunding, Naked’s angels pay £20 per month into a pot that gives the company £5m of purchasing power every month, which is used to support small winemakers and bring boutique offerings to members at wholesale prices.

Money paid in by angels is subsequently deducted from their wine purchases.

Naked, which employs 120 people at its Norwich HQ, has built a customer base of 225,000 angels, almost 150,000 of them in the UK, since its launch in 2008 by Rowan Gormley.

Ms Hodges, 33, toasted her acceptance as an angel at a special reception organised by Naked Wines.

She said she had been desperate to join after a friend told her about the company.

“Being an angel means more to me than just being in a wine club. I’m supporting independent winemakers and the wines are pretty special too,” she said.

Naked, a past winner of several business awards including the customer care category of the EDP Business Awards, ships wine throughout the UK, the US and Australia; it last year recorded profits of almost £2m on global sales of £53m, up 40 per cent in just a year.

As a result of its rapid growth its most popular wines were selling out quickly and that prompted Naked’s announcement earlier this summer that anyone wanting to join would have to go on a waiting list, currently up to eight weeks, to help ensure angels were able to get the wines they wanted.

In just four weeks, the list has grown to more than 10,000 and this weekend the first 500 people on it were allowed to join Naked.

Eamon FitzGerald, managing-director of Naked Wines UK, said: “We were crowdfunding before the term was even invented.

“We recognised the situation in the wine industry where the two most important people - the customer and the wine maker - were both getting screwed by the middle man.”

By eliminating the middle man, independent wine producers benefited while customers could enjoy high quality wine for £7.50 a bottle, up to 50pc less than in the high street.

The firm’s rapid expansion has seen Naked Wines add 30 to its workforce in the past year; Mr Gormley is now based in California, heading up the company’s worldwide operations.

Mr FitzGerald believes their business model would translate well to other artisanal industries.

Among the winemakers Naked has supported are Carmen Stevens, the first black South African woman to graduate in winemaking. Naked’s angels also stepped in to help Katie Jones, an Englishwoman making respected wines in France, after vandals destroyed one of her vintages last year.

5 comments

  • I've been a Naked Wines customer for about five years or so now - starting long before I moved to England! - have always been really happy with both the wine and the customer service!

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    Capac Raimi

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • Hi Moosey - we buy directly from winemakers, not importers. Take Rod Easthope for example. If you wanted to buy wine from where he previously made wine, Craggy Range, you'd pay £12-15 in most UK outlets. Because he is funded by our Angels, we are able to sell his wine for £8.99 on our site. If you haven’t checked us out for a while, I think we’ve made big improvements to our sub £10 range, and also our breadth of wine selection. Csidewolf & Gerry - I’m sorry it wasn’t clear to you. We have 225,000 Angels who are happy to pay in £20 per month - I assume we have refunded your money in full if you were unhappy with any aspect of our service. Best regards, Eamon

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    Eamon Fitzgerald

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • I got a deal through O2 a year ago, 6 bottles of wine (worth £60 apparently) for just £4.99 p&p , then got flooded with emails. Fortunately I read the small print so didn't get stung for more.

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    Csidewolf

    Wednesday, September 3, 2014

  • Read the small print, i had money taken from my bank account by this company without my permission.

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    gerry mitson

    Tuesday, September 2, 2014

  • They're not really eliminating the middle man though, as they buy from some importers too. Their prices are also ludicrous, and the range incredibly limited. The sub £10 range isn't very good either. Shame as it's a good concept but this puts me off

    Add your comment | Report this comment

    Mooseyt4

    Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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