Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Looking ahead: Christopher and Jon Carson, Carson Wines

Published:  14 December, 2018

Once again we are catching up with the trade over the next few 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 father and son team Christopher and Jon Carson at Carson Wines.

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

Without question much weaker. The threat and continuing speculation of Brexit, with all its ramifications - regulations, exchange rates short and mid-term, efficiency of supply threats, declining consumption, declining consumer outlet base both off- and on-trade, staff recruitment, etc - has made 2018 an extremely challenging year.

The UK trade needs to understand that we are becoming a less attractive market for producers each year. Again, in 2018 [the UK trade, collectvely] demanded lower prices from producers - this is not sustainable and as an industry we have a collective responsibility to reverse this.

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

Our business is growing despite challenging, often negative external factors. We gratefully receive excellent feedback on our quality, service and value for money, which is promising and very rewarding. We have also identified a large number of customers continually seeking smaller sized ‘specialists’ who can provide a personalised relationship and provenance across a portfolio.

Lows included the indecision and lack of confidence in the trade, not to mention finding the right passionate people to join a company on the up, albeit in so doing leaving behind the ‘security’ that some of the larger importer/distributors offer - apparently!

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

UK consumption for wine fell again – since 2004 wine consummation has fallen nearly 25%. However, we note that other categories are growing year-on-year and doing a much better job in premiumisation, than wine.

With regards to wine, UK off- and on-trade retailers continue to drive cost prices down on wine (while increasing their margin) as opposed to spending a little more and giving the consumer better value for money product, especially considering thast many customers are drinking less but better.

Climate warming continues and the implications for wine production are dramatic (as indeed all other agricultural products) – what will we be saying in 2025 about this?

We have seen how producers and brand owners are becoming much more authoritative with regards payment terms (partly due to the well-documented issues of one or two larger UK importers), whereas the high street is seeking lengthier credit due to the well-documented challenges that it face.s This is making trading more cash onerous; if brand owners only offer 30 to 45 days credit to a wholesaler, it results in the wholesaler funding the brand owner’s growth.

Are wholesalers meant to finance brand owners distribution and growth? Do Brand owners think they can bite the hand that feeds them? Are they getting out of touch with reality, whilst being distracted with suckering to shareholders in the short-term rather than considering the long game?

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

Wine consummation will become more topical. Also, lower alcohol wines will continue to grow, especially with our government’s less than supportive position on excise duty.

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

With the high street continuing to retract we see more opportunities for brokers, and also for wholesalers that also engage in B2C activity. We also believe there will be opportunities for like-minded companies to merge, consolidate and grow.

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

Naturally March 29 dominates this question with all its implications: regulations; exchange rates short and mid-term; efficiency of supply threats; declining consummation; declining consumer outlet base both off and on-trade; staff recruitment; and tariffs.

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

Your own people; those companies that are forward thinking, nimble and pragmatic; and for their sheer scale with regards wine sales, the positioning of the grocers will be intriguing – will they continue to offer the same, staid range of wines or will they finally see such dramatic market conditions as an opportunity to change?

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

HM Government and Parliament uniting in the interest of the country, giving better support to business in the UK (not just the big players) and getting a united vision for Britain.