Archive for January, 2011

Post Christmas Blues

Posted on: January 18th, 2011 by Andrew No Comments

Lying in bed recovering from a particularly virulent bout of flu which has had me bed-bound for 5 days now – I’m feeling bored and frustrated. Luckily January is the quietest month of the year in the Trade so my presence in the office is not overly missed but.. There are lots of things to organize if we are to ride out this year in good shape because various heavy- looking clouds hang over this portion of the trade and they will take a bit of dodging.

Primarily we are a wholesaler focussed on mid range dining outlets, pubs, private hotels, small restaurants and the like in our quiet corner of the South West. Here the catering industry is already in trouble with many pubs closing and others changing hands at rock bottom prices and we are only at the start of the Public Sector cuts process which will take a large chunk of consumers out of the market.

We all think we know why this is.  Cheap booze in the shops and supermarkets is helping people stay at home rather go out for a meal, and this is compounded by ever increasing pump prices for beer driven by higher duty rates and cost prices, price increases that supermarkets often ignore, cross subsidise or get the producer to pay for. Allied to that is the expected food and fuel price inflation that is eating away at salaries making us all feel poorer. Whats the first thing to go? The meal in the pub with family and friends gets pushed back to once a month and soon trade is down everywhere.

To make money in the pub sector now takes ingenuity and skill – some succeed but many don’t. Only a very few Landlords have that magic ingredient that can pull in the Punters, make them spend and leave them wanting more next week!

A new approach is needed to running a business in this sector in my view. Out of 100’s of accounts that we have in the area only a dozen or so could be considered to be in the above category. They are all very different places but offer something special that makes people want to return. If it could be bottled, we’d sell it.

I don’t have many answers but I think a start would be to offer some form of training for Pub and Restaurant managers that could set them on the right track. Who would pay? The industry itself which includes all of us, whether on the wine, beer or property side has an interest in the maintenance of the trade and maybe should take a more proactive role in helping to protect a rapidly declining sector. The Government also bears some responsibility.

Another thorny problem that must be dealt with I alluded to above; the price differential driving people to the Supermarkets. I dont have an answer but for an interesting view on the problem read this article here by Mary Anne Sieghart in the Independent at the weekend.

Why am I worried? Well obviously we cant afford to lose hundreds of customers as their businesses fall by the wayside, nor can we instantly change into a price driven retail outlet and pull customers away from the supermarkets. We are a small very rurally based wine specialist that does what it does and changing to something else would be difficult and probably expensive. A little rebalancing is possible, after all we have a good website and range of wines, but wholesale changes – No.

Meanwhile I look forward to 2011 with some trepidation but hey, you know what they say? “There are no problems, only opportunities”

On with the show

PS this has been my first post for nearly 11 months – I think I will try and keep it up – when the inspiration strikes.

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