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Looking ahead: Stephen Finch, Vagabond Wines

Published:  07 August, 2018

As the first half of 2018 draws to a close, Harpers asked key trade figures to highlight the current challenges, on-going trends and opportunities

We continue our series with insights from Stephen Finch, founder and director, Vagabond Wines. 

1. How has the first half of 2018 been when compared to the same period in 2017?

We’re up 16.5% on Q1-Q2 2017.

2. What, currently, are the biggest challenges for the trade (excluding Brexit)?

For us it’s a lot of the same challenges as facing the broader food and beverage sector. Staff are more expensive now thanks to increased minimum wage, pensions and fewer job-seekers from the EU; rates just went up massively from April 2017; a weaker pound makes for more expensive inputs (wine and food); and we’re expecting duty to go up massively at the next budget in order to save the NHS, apparently.

3. And challenges that are Brexit-related?

For us it’s primarily a question of how many professionals will leave London (bankers, accountants, lawyers, etc.) as a result of employers shifting jobs abroad.

4. 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?

For us it’s mainly about ensuring we deliver stellar customer service. With all the dislocations in the market right now, those who are at the top of their game will benefit at the expense of those who aren’t. We’re also planning to open our next Vagabond at Paddington Central in October 2018.

5. And where do the opportunities lie?

More Vagabonds. We’re also exploring lunch trade at certain Vagabond sites.

6. What will the focus be on with regard to your portfolio?

More of our Vagabond-made wines, which includes both the Vagabond Urban Winery (English wines) and our collaboration series, which we make in collaboration with vineyards/wineries around the world.

7. What other trends do you anticipate?

It's tough out there. I expect more business closures.

8. How optimistic are you – will business for the drinks trade be better or worse between now and 1 Jan 2019 compared with last year?

Probably worse for the sector but better for Vagabond.