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Beadles looks forward

Published:  23 July, 2008

Jeremy Beadles, the new chief executive of the Wine and
Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), has set out his vision for a
new, more dynamic WSTA that has a higher profile with Government' and a positive effect directly on our members' bottom line'.

Beadles - who previously worked as chief executive at the British Retail Consortium (BRC) before joining the WSTA at the start of the year - said he wanted to precipitate a big increase' in members from the current level of around 250, while making sure we are just as useful to our smaller members as we are to our larger ones. For some members our job is to lobby, lobby, lobby, whereas others, particularly the smaller ones, need legal advice and other services. On both those aims it would be fair to say the WSTA hadn't been as active as it could in the past.'

Beadles joins after a period of restructuring at the WSTA, led by outgoing chairman Dr Barry Sutton, which has seen it move offices, recruit extra staff and set up a new executive committee. He also joins at a time when drinks (and drinks-related problems) are high on the news agenda. That was something that attracted me to the job,' said Beadles. I went through a similar process at the BRC: we underwent a five-year top-to-bottom process, changing structures and people, and moving away from using consultancies and outside providers to more work in-house. Some of that has already been done here, and the team we have is terrific, but there still more to do.'

Top of the list on Beadles's action plan is getting the trades' voice better heard at the Treasury, particularly over the yearly imposition of year-on-year duty rises. The WSTA's budget submission (which called for a freeze on duty rates until a radical review of how duty rates are imposed' has been made), was one of the first things I signed off when I joined', according to Beadles. And it's clear to see that it has a significant impact on the drinks industry. But it does no good just going to the Treasury and saying that. You have to say why and prove it, and this is what we've been working on.

Prices are set at the beginning of the year, and we all know that the duty rise effectively becomes a tax on margins. You also have to remember that there is evidence that the wine sector is slowing down. You can argue that these "taxes" were offset by volume increases in recent years, but if that slows down, then they could cause a lot of trouble.' Outgoing Constellation boss and chairman elect of the WSTA Chris Carson (he has to be voted in this April, although no other candidates are standing) and Majestic Wines boss Tim How (who chairs the WSTA retail committee) will be attending meetings with the Treasury alongside Beadles. One of our major advantages as an industry is that there are a lot of smaller companies involved in the sector. If you can prove that extra bureaucracy and red tape adversely affects their business, then that really does get Governmental ears.'

The other big issue affecting Government - that of alcohol misuse - is one where Beadles feels the industry has made progress. A lot of good work has been done. The stuff that the drinkaware trust has done and the progress that has been made on selling to those underage has been very good.

I know the Government has been genuinely pleased with

the progress that has been made. That doesn't mean we can stop now, though. We need to continue working and continue making progress.'

Regarding smaller companies, Beadles is keen that the WSTA provide a range of competitive advantages for our members - things that directly affect the bottom line, like a discount on credit-card charges when our members make a sale. We can get a better deal on utilities, logistics, lots of things, if we can do a deal collectively. Lots of other trade associations offer this type of thing, and I would like us to do so as well.'

So what of Wine Trade Action Group, the association that catalysed the changes that have been made at the WSTA? I have a very good relationship with them so far, and many of their members are on our committee as well. They've decided they are going to stay together for the time being, and I suppose my job is to convince them they have no need to exist anymore.'