|Opinion: The Tate's Hamish Anderson on holding your ground in tough times|
|Monday, 09 March 2009 16:14|
Hamish Anderson, head sommelier at the Tate, explains how to get your priorities right in challenging times.
Last week I rushed into the Tate late for a meeting with one of our suppliers. I need not have worried as the supplier, blackberry pressed close to his ear, was in the middle of a heated conversation on the steps of the gallery. When he finally joined me for an espresso he revealed that he was getting an earful from one of his top customers for what they perceived as a large and out-of-the-blue price hike on a major brand of champagne.
Over the last few months we should have all got use to the idea that wine is going to cost us more, although I fear there has been a fair amount of sticking the head in the sand. The weakness of the pound versus the euro and dollar means that swathes of the wine world (Europe, Chile, Argentina and the US) can now cost our suppliers up to 30% more than this time last year. And although we have had plenty of time to plan for raft of price increases that seem to arrive in my in box on a daily basis, it still though comes as a shock when you realise that your favoured house white, Champagne, Sancerre, etc just no longer hits the right price point and so needs to be de-listed or supplemented with something cheaper.
Some prices will have to rise on lists, but you hardly need to be a genius to see to that now is not the time wholesale pricing restructure - consumers are already concentrating their pounds towards the lower end of wine lists. This area needs to be bolstered rather than reduced.
So how are we all meant to readjust our buying in these unprecedented times? An obvious answer is to look at countries whose currencies have performed as direly as the pound over the last year, so Australian, New Zealand and South African wine suddenly looks all the more attractive.
We are also being told that now is the time to reassess our relationship with suppliers. Consolidation is a frequently used word at the moment. Reduce the number your of suppliers, the theory goes - even down to one - and you will receive better prices and service. I am afraid this is a theory I have never subscribed to. By all means get rid of the merchant who delivers you one case of wine a year. However, provided you can manage the logistics of dealing with multiple suppliers, I have never (and still don't) believed that this communist, monopoly approach is best. A healthy dose of capitalist competition for listings garners equal, if not better, discounts and ensures that only the best of their type are put forward for potential listings.
So now is not the moment to be ditching suppliers left, right and centre or to beat them up over price increases. Instead, keep an open mind, be flexible, and above all concentrate on strengthening existing relationships with companies that are experiencing many of the same challenges as you.