For professional wine and food industry veteran Chantelle Pabros, working in the heart of New York City’s wine industry isn’t just about being a female sommelier and seller in a traditionally male dominated field. It’s also the balancing act of investing and educating in the intersections where women and wine collide.
Sitting across from me in buzzy Rockefeller Center, she’s impeccably dressed and razor sharp when I begin diving into where those two elements are headed in 2016. Pabros rattles off a series of stats, including one from Time Magazine’s 2014 study, in which the “Majority of home equity loans, new car loans, and U.S. savings bonds are now owned by women (51 percent, 52 percent, and 54 percent, respectively), and 59 percent of personal loans for education are made to women.” In short, women are now holding the luxury purse strings and coming into their own in a new way, including that of buying wine and other investments.
Speed x Transparency
As Pabros shares stories about growing a client base in wine, she also says that regardless of gender, the landscape has changed.
“Technology and speed of access to everything has really changed how people buy things for themselves. In fact, I have clients that I custom tailor a monthly selection to their exact tastes and have delivered promptly to their doorstep. Now, everything is about virtual relationships. The level of responsiveness and hospitality that someone provides is what seals the deal and helps build those deeper, emotional connections. Smiling and dialing or rattling the old boy rolodex doesn’t cut it anymore. New buyers want to know where it’s from, who makes it, how they make it, and why they should buy it.”
Personalization x Experience
According to Pabros, most “new” buyers are looking to drink great wine every day, not just hoard it in a far flung cellar like the days of wine lore. The new trend, and perhaps the biggest that really needs acknowledgement by industry vets, is that a new breed of women are buying for themselves.
“It’s no longer women depending on men to stock the wine cellar or pick a bottle at dinner. Women are now responsible for making their own lives fabulous. They are young and single professionals here in New York City and internationally, who control how they spend while making big financial decisions more than ever, and it’s showing in greater numbers. For the wine, food, and restaurant industry, customizing how you speak with this new audience, as well as highly personalizing their buying and dining experience, is paramount for success.”
She also acknowledges the nonstop pace of the food and wine industry.
“[It’s] really demanding for those working on the inside, not just for women, but all. It’s easy to see that many jobs will take and take and take. And as an industry vet and a woman, knowing where to draw a line for maintaining some peace of mind is worth more than a higher paying job that is unsustainable in the long run. Being honest about expectation and knowing when to say ‘this scene is done for me,’ and elevate yourself into a new role or place to better suit your longterm life goals can’t be emphasized enough.”
Future x Tech
As for 2016, along with saying women are going to be buying more, Pabros predicts that many tech-based initiatives will be appearing — even more than in 2015. Apps where female wine buyers, sellers, food industry and luxury professionals, etc., will be able to leverage their customers’ buying behavior into sales and growth goals.
“The future for not only selling wine to women, but having them educated to the point of being willing enough to invest longterm will NEED to be acknowledged by the old world/old boys club in wine. There’s a lot of ‘talk’ but not a lot of action. Seeing where the future is going is so vital to helming not only personal success, but that of success for all sectors of that luxury realm is very important.”
Moving into 2016, Pabros believes those working in the food and wine business need to know that reaching out on social media, having a dedicated and professional, consistent branded appearance, “as well as maintaining an authentic staff and product is the best way to guarantee that the customers and those you work with will support your growth and successes, which in the longterm is everything those of us working in these industries want.”