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French Shopping, Dining & Lifestyle guide in Singapore

SoChic Stories

Wine Connection, a French success story!

The second edition of the very successful Wine Fair will be hosted in November, the first edition being last year to commemorate 20 years of Wine Connection.

Well-stocked with affordable wines from the best wine regions in the world, discover the success story of Wine Connection in our interview with Caroline Simon, the managing director of Wine Connection Singapore.

Can you go back and explain to us how Wine Connection started ?

Wine Connection was founded in 1998 in Bangkok by French entrepreneur Michael Trocherie when he was 24 years old.
He started by selling wine to hotels and restaurants. The concept Michael had in mind for Wine Connection was to make wine available and affordable for everyone.

One year later, the first wine showroom opened. It is difficult to find it now but it is still making business! Then in 2002, the company signed a partnership with AccorHotels and V9 Wine Bar & Restaurant in Thailand. And we created our first wine shop in restaurant with our sommelier giving recommendations and selling wines directly to the customers. Michael understood there was a demand for cheaper but good-quality wine. Still today we propose in retail wines from $20 you can take home and you can enjoy in our restaurant a bottle of wine from $30.
That’s how Wine Connection started in the food and beverage industry.

We then continued to develop wine shops and opened in different locations in Thailand: Phuket (2003) and Pattaya (2004). Finally, we launched our first Wine Connection restaurant right next to the retail shop in Phuket in 2005. In that very same year, we also launched the first wine shop and wine bar in Singapore located at Robertson Quay. Today, we have more than 70 outlets in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia.

What are the main challenges you have faced?

As a company, one of the main challenges is to know perfectly each environment before we decide to introduce a shop or a restaurant. Location is important in retail and F&B. Plus each country has different rules, laws, and culture.
We always have to put this into consideration for our business plans (import duties, limitations on alcohol products, local sourcing for ingredients…).

Our key to success is also to control the whole supply chain as it enables us to offer products and services at affordable price.
We are proud of our ‘vineyard to consumer’ approach.
And we regularly organize wine tastings and wine dinners with our wine producers so our customers can meet them and know more about their wines and winery.

Personally, I started as an intern at Wine Connection in 2003.
First and foremost, I had to quickly familiarize myself with the vocabulary of wine and acquire a solid knowledge. During my internship, I managed and faced real challenges. For example, working alone and having to be present on all fronts. My young age and being a woman did not help in a man’s world. (Thankfully it has now changed, there are now lots of women in the industry.) However, I fell in love with this company and that’s how I ended up in the wine sector.

In November 2014, the Wine Connection group was acquired by a private equity company. At that time, one of my biggest challenges was to adapt myself to a new environment, a new way of leading, a different vision. I also had to develop my knowledge and skills in sectors that I had not occupied for a long time.

One advice I can give you is “Have a vision and don’t go with the easy way like everyone else. Try, work hard and you will make it.”

What’s next for Wine Connection?

First of all, our second Wine Fair edition! We’re very excited to have customers meet our wine suppliers in person and enjoy the large variety of wines available. Also, please come check out our new outlet in Paya Lebar, that opened this October!

We also opened an outlet in South Korea last year, through a local joint venture and we are still looking at other markets in South-East Asia.

I would particularly like to open in the Philippines but we are still searching for the right partner…

Your advice for people who think about launching a retail outlet?

“Don’t give up! If there is a doubt, there is no doubt.”
French Shopping, Dining & Lifestyle guide in Singapore