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Harpers hosts recession-busting debate

Published:  13 May, 2009

Drinks industry professionals have been given some recession-busting tips from some of the trade's key players during a special Harpers debate at the London International Wine Fair.

The debate with the title 'How to Make Money in a Recession' and hosted by HWS editor Richard Siddle, featured a high-profile panel of Thierry's Mattew Dickinson, Oddbins owner Simon Baile and Waverly TBS wine buying director, Neil Bruce.

All three said that attention to business detail and staff training were crucial for survival in the current recession, offering the audience approaches for the on-trade, off-trade and distribution ends of the industry.

Matthew Dickinson said: "Every business has a dirty corner which includes products an people. It is essential in a recession for a business to have the energy to sort out these things. Are the people working for you good enough? Are they working hard enough?"

Dickinson also advised that a business should have a close relationship with its bank manager in what is currently a "profit poor" industry.

Oddbin's Simon Baile said: "We do plan to come through the other side of recession leaner, smarter and fitter as a business. There are some things in business that I have always looked for. There are some simple things that I have always tried to maintain - I feel they are very important. The great thing that we have is that the wine industry is quite a stable business. It is a fairly good industry to be in for this reason. One of the key things is sustainability and we plan for the long term - you need a good idea of what is coming next."

He advised businesses to spread risk when choosing suppliers.

Baile also identified staff training as key to the success of a business in the current economic climate.

"Staff need to understand the needs of the business. They need to help you through a recession.They need a pat on the back sometimes."

The Oddbins chief recommended that small independent businesses should examine opportunities to work together.

"We need to work more closely together - I would encourage all of us to look at ways that we can do this."

Neil Bruce said that the on-trade should be be more imaginitive in order to grasp revenue opportunities. He described the on-trade as "immature" and identified wine-by-glass sales as an opportunity to increase margins. Consumer sampling opportunities should be embraced, he said.

On staffing, Bruce added: "You're only as good as your weakest link".