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Looking ahead: Pierpaolo Petrassi MW, Waitrose

Published:  25 December, 2018

Once again we are catching up with the trade over the festive weeks to find out how businesses are making the most of the all-important Christmas trading period, while also looking ahead to the challenges and opportunities 2019 will bring.

Our series continues with insights from Pierpaolo Petrassi MW, head of buying (BWS), Waitrose.

Would you say that the trade is in a stronger or weaker place now than at the same time last year, and why?

A mixed bag. The 2018 European vintage was much better than 2017 so producers all over the continent are positive about the year to come. However, the uncertainty over the UK's departure from the EU is a major concern and looms so soon after Christmas that it will undoubtedly affect consumer confidence in the New Year.

What were the highs and lows for your own business in 2018?

Our rebrand to 'Waitrose & Partners' was a great success and has been received very well by our customers, by analysts and within our own business. We're a very positive business so there were no lows that we weren't able to turn into highs!

What were the most significant trends in the drinks world that occurred in 2018?

Wine was singled out for a duty rise in the November budget - we will see the impact in 2019. We've also seen our customer further embracing no and low alcohol in a more meaningful way in 2018.

What drinks trends do you predict will emerge or become more firmly established in 2019?

Our customerís repertoire has never been more broad and they seem set to continue drinking across several categories as the occasion suggests and as fancy takes them.

What are likely to be the biggest opportunities for the trade in 2019?

From what we have seen this year we expect no and low alcohol lines will continue to grow in 2019; also growth within half and smaller format bottles will continue to gain popularity as it serves a real need amongst our shoppers.

What will be the biggest challenges facing the trade in 2019?

Next year is going to be quite unsettled as the UK prepares to depart from the EU and 2019 will be a challenging time for the drinks industry as a whole.

Who are the people, companies or sectors to watch in 2019?

Any drinks company with a point of difference, a clear customer-driven plan and passionate individuals to execute that plan will be successful in 2019 (and beyond).

What, for you, would make for a perfect Christmas?

Christmas is never a long break in retail: if shops are open, head office teams need to be there to support the operation. A perfect Christmas would include precious time with family and friends, sustainable sales growth and no extreme weather.