Like Fine Wine

Michael Chan – Channel Manager, Jebsen Beverage


On this particular workday, I am manning the wine retail shop at a clubhouse in Causeway Bay. Pacing around the 200-sqm space, I’m checking that all our sakes, wines, and beers are properly displayed, our inventory is stocked, and our patrons can easily find what they need – both Clubhouse restaurants needing wines to serve their diners and walk-in customers looking for a cold beer or juice. It might look like store operations is my day job, but it isn’t.

I do, however, enjoy stepping outside of the day-to-day, especially when it is to explore a possible new revenue stream for the company. The wine shop, Jebsen Beverage’s first physical retail outlet, opened in October 2021 as the business line’s venture into retail. And that is why I’m here: as a Channel Manager at Jebsen Beverage, I look after the multi-channel sales of our products. This shop’s success could lead to more shops opening – and a new milestone for Jebsen.

As a professional, I have always liked to imagine what’s beyond the here and now. Beginning my career at a leading supermarket chain, I imagined what it would be like to blend my career and passion – wine. So I pursued the WSET qualification, and by the time I joined Jebsen the first time in 2013, I had pivoted my specialisation from household goods to wine sales.

After two years looking after off trade and duty-free accounts for our Wine division, I found myself longing for more exposure. I joined a US company that offered me a multi-market role. Travel-intense and mostly remote, this stint equipped me with the dexterity and modern work skills – perfect prerequisites for my return to Jebsen in 2018. 

One factor pulling me back to Jebsen was a discovery of what I value: working for a company whose forward-looking vision matches my own thirst for excitement. My return to Jebsen coincided with the online retail explosion. This time around, I was tasked with strategising to help our B2B clients appeal to their customers, learning a new mix of channels and tactics that included not only online but loyalty programmes and corporate sales. The pace of online retail kept me on my toes, with me closely monitoring, and responding to, price and market trends every day. While it was all unfamiliar turf at first, the agility I gained during my years away helped me settle into these multi-faceted challenges with much more confidence.

And yet, my work allowed me to stretch my imagination and capabilities further.

In 2019, Jebsen Wines and Spirits independently organised Hong Kong’s largest sake event, Sake Walk, for the first time. As one of the event’s leads, I oversaw a stock of 80+ premium sakes, tasting booths, a retail shop, and all the operational and manpower planning. Facing this complicated project head on, my team and I planned everything to the finest detail, from ensuring sufficient stock of drinks and ice cubes, to displays, shelving, product layout and pricing, to contingency planning. What resulted was a smoothly run event that attracted hundreds of sake lovers and went down as one of my favourite memories from Jebsen.

As a wine lover, I understand that every quality wine is made with finesse and precision, from planting all the way to bottling and transporting. This principle also applies in work, as demonstrated by our results with Sake Walk. And while we are making wine analogies, I believe that just like a good wine, we all get better with age; each instance of learning, overcoming hurdles, and creating new value deepens our professional excellence, giving us the courage to keep imagining what else we can do.