Angela Mount comment, September 2009
For vast swathes of the good and great of the wine industry, the IWC awards dinner at the onset of September, followed by the enthusiastic clarion calls from the annual Wines of Chile and Wines of Argentina tastings, mark the start of the new ‘Season'.
My initial instinct was to write this column about the tough challenges we face as we teeter into our peak trading period.
However, the timing of this article gives me the excuse to express a long held view that despite the ever more sophisticated category management approach, which is at last being applied to key areas of our business, there is still a considerable lack of understanding of retail time lines and operational pressures.
Ten years ago I accused European producers for living in the Dark Ages, by closing down for August. The counter argument was that vintage time would be extremely demanding; I'm sorry but there is never a period of time when a buyer cannot reach and get a 24 hour response from a winery in the southern hemisphere. The best UK suppliers and agents are wise to this now, and will make contingency cover.
August and probably late December and early January are some of the most stressful for retail buyers. Whilst Christmas orders have been placed, at retail HQ, numbers and forecasts are reworked almost daily and revisions made based on the strength of the marketing/advertising plans put in place as a result of the key proposals.
Simultaneously the buyers are planning Easter and Spring range reviews; in my time as a buyer the greatest irritant were sales and account managers who went on holiday mid-December because the stock was in and they thought their job was done. And this still happens, from boutique to some of the biggest distributors.
So, as we all limber up for another round of inevitable festival fisticuffs, spare a thought for many of the buyers, in all sectors of the trade, who will never know the meaning of "the quiet time of year", given the constant exigencies required of them to keep their business model operating at full capacity.
Never has there been a greater need for an improved working partnership and understanding between distributor and customer, in order to deliver at optimum level, to the consumer.
And lastly... a word of advice...never mention the words "quiet time" to a buyer!
Angela Mount is director of Mount & Paul Wine Industry solutions