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Looking ahead: Paul Jenkins, Caprice Holdings and The Birley Group

Published:  11 August, 2017

The autumn tasting season will be upon us before we know it, as the trade prepares for the run up to the all-important Christmas trading period.

Throughout August, Harpers will be running a web series that will include interviews with some of leading voices in the trade, to discover what trends and challenges they’re expecting to face in the latter half of 2017.

We continue our series with Paul Jenkins, purchasing director, Caprice Holdings and The Birley Group.

How has the first half of 2017 been when compared to the same period in 2016?

H1 has broadly speaking been positive. Revenue, spends and volume are encouraging. As a business we have continued to focus on investment in quality of our product and our staff.

What, currently, are the biggest challenges for the trade?

Cost and availability are the major challenges I see for the trade.  Poor yields and rising costs (as a result of multiple factors) have combined to make sourcing commercially more difficult than this time 18 months ago. There is still plenty of opportunity but far greater effort is required.  Staffing is an on-going challenge – should we lose the talent that currently comes from Europe we will doubtless face a skills shortage.

Taking current trading conditions into account, what’s your strategy for meeting those challenges during the second half of the year, through autumn and leading up to the crucial Christmas trading period?

We’ve been running a process of consolidation over the past 6 months – really focusing on those wines and listings that are commercially important for us whilst ensuring we have the depth in our portfolio to satisfy our customers. Honing the non-wine costs in our business, such as logistics and distribution, stockholding, etc, to ensure we can continue to invest in the quality of the product in the bottle and continue to provide exceptional lists for our guests.

And where do the opportunities lie?

In H2 of 2017 opportunities for us lie around fine wines and champagne.  Traditionally big sellers at this time of year.

Specifically, what will the focus be on with regard to your portfolio?

Our sommelier team is very keen to increase the rotation of listings, thus ensuring our guests see something new each time they visit. We have a very high level of repeat business so it’s vital we keep our lists evolving.

Any trends that you anticipate?

Difficult to say…. But I do think consumers will continue to focus on quality lower alcohol wines. The drive for a healthier approach to life will naturally filter through to the wine trade.

Which channels are likely to perform best and which will be under the greatest stress and why?

I can only speak on behalf of the restaurant trade, but I do believe the market will get tougher for branded multi-site operators. Over-supply and a move towards food to go will expose some mediocre brands in 2017/18.

How optimistic are you – will business for the drinks trade be better or worse between now and 1 Jan 2018 compared with last year and why?

One has to be optimistic. Life is very dull for the pessimistic. However, I do believe that trade will continue well for the good operators. We won’t see the growth hat has been evident over the last 5 years but those who do what they do well will continue to flourish.