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PLB says 'change inevitable'

Published:  17 February, 2014

PLB, one of the UK's leading wine distributors, has told that "change is inevitable" in such a "tough and very challenging market" as it has seen a series of wine brands and agencies both join and leave the business in recent months. 

John Osborne, PLB's new managing director, said that in this "tough challenging market" suppliers are closely examining their routes to market, hence the series of ins and outs in to the company. But he stressed there has also been a number of "exciting changes" taking places at PLB with several new agencies to its portfolio. These include three New Zealand wineries  - Babich, Misha's Vineyard and Matahiwi - with ranges ideal for its growing independent merchant business. 

Since the start of the year Chile's Montes, California's Trinchero Family Estates and Australia's McWilliams have moved their UK business elsewhere or set up their own offices in the UK. In December PLB took on South African premium Fairtrade producer Bosman Family Vineyards, in a bid to boost its fine wine portfolio and ramp up that side of the business.

Multiple grocery business still accounts for three quarters of PLB's turnover, said Osborne, but it is diversifying to better serve independents and the on-trade, and has doubled its beer business in the past four to five years.

Following a restructure in late 2012, it divided up its business aligned to each distribution channel to better meet each sector's needs. It has also been running regional roadshows for independents for the last two years, and is about to kick off its third year of roadshows. Osborne said the group's "full service" offering helps differentiate it from competitors.

PLB's independent roadshows take place in Edinburgh on March 4 (shared with Hatch Mansfield), Manchester on March 5 and London on March 6.

Visitors to the Manchester tasting will be able to take part in a Harpers debate looking at the opportunity for online sales and retailing and the use of social media featuring key trade figures.

These include Steve Mosey, head of BWS at Morrisons, who will talk through both Morrisons new wine and spirits offer as part of its first mainstream grocery website launched in January, and the bespoke Morrisons Cellar dedicated drinks site launched last year.

The debate will also hear from leading independent wine merchants on how they are using online in their businesses. Ben Stephenson of Hangingditch in Manchester will look at how it is successfully marketing its events, tastings and special promotions through its website and building a wider consumer base through social media.

Dennis Collet of Orderella, an app that allows customers to pay for their meals via their mobile phones direct from their table, will look at how technology can potentially give independents an edge with customers. The debate, to be chaired by Harpers editor, Richard Siddle, takes place at 2pm at Manchester's People's Museum.

Former World Sommelier of the Year, Gerard Basset MW, MS OBE, will take part in a Q&A session at the London tasting on how wine companies can better engage with the on-trade sector. There will be over 350 wines available to taste specifically targeted at the independent on and off-trade sectors.

Osborne also confirmed to that PLB would be returning to London Wine Fair this year, taking place at London's Olympia from June 2 to 4, 2014, but Osborne said it planned to "do things differently" adding, "we won't have a beast of a stand". 

To read more about PLB's plans, read our Q&A with managing director John Osborne.