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Looking ahead: Matt Hennings, managing director, Hennings Wine

Published:  31 July, 2019

As the first half of 2019 draws to a close, Harpers asked key trade figures to highlight the current challenges, ongoing trends and opportunities

We start our series with insights from Matt Hennings of Hennings Wine

How has the first half of 2019 been when compared to the same period in 2018?

Pretty good on the whole with growth on last year but it does feel somewhat fragile.

What were the highs and lows for your own business in the first six months of 2019?

Firstly, we had our best ever turnout to our annual trade tasting in March with lots of new and existing customers in attendance. Unfortunately, we had a key team member being taken seriously ill for a lengthy period earlier in the year. I also managed to rupture my achilles and had some time away from the business at the same time. However, the “high”” was how the team pulled together and worked through what was a pretty challenging situation. All ok now and on the mend, they did a terrific job.

What, currently, are the biggest challenges for the trade?

I wish it wasn’t so, but there are a few. The obvious uncertainty of Brexit and its impact. Challenges to the retail sector and High St. Less people going out and less people drinking wine.

Will you be preparing in any way for a second potential ‘no deal’ or some deal Brexit day on 31 October and, if so, how?

We are fortunate to have plenty of room in our own cellars and have already been through our plan for the original Brexit deadline with currency and stock holding solutions. We’ve made further plans and will see if we need to execute them in the coming weeks.

Taking current trading conditions into account, what’s your strategy for meeting those challenges during the second half of the year, leading up to the crucial Christmas trading period?

There is no question we are all on fragile ground with consumer confidence and we must bear this in mind with festive planning. We will ensure that we plan as close to normal as we can. We do not outsource storage, bonds or deliveries so are very much in control of this stream and can react swiftly. We have great relationships with all our suppliers that have been built over many years, very important in times like these. Focussing on good customer service no matter what is going on around us and good planning is key.

Christmas will not be cancelled and we will probably all need a glass of something nice by then!

No doubt like many business owners, I am keen to start planning beyond Brexit and want to move forward with some exciting plans and get out of this limbo.

We will be celebrating our 60th year next year, something we are very proud of!

What will the focus be on with regard to your portfolio (and any updates) and why?

Very little will change with our range until early next year, it never normally does. We will just need to plan sensibly with regards to logistics on our Christmas offers.

For you, what are the most significant emerging trends in the drinks world?

We continue to sell more and more English still and sparkling wine. Due to our location, we have had great success with particularly sparkling for many years, this continues to grow in both the on and off-trade. Vegan and organic wines also are becoming more and more popular both on and off-trade. Provence Rosé shows no sign of letting up either.

What innovations in the drinks world do you believe will have the most impact going forward?

We decided last year to stop selling any products in plastic bottles and are contacting all suppliers who use plastic in the packaging of their goods to try to urge them to find recyclable alternatives. Packaging is the most important innovation we need to work on with more emphasis on sustainable and recyclable materials.

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

More glorious weather – makes all the difference for business across the south!

An Ashes victory.

Brighton and Hove Albion football club getting three straight wins in August.

An extra 2 weeks on the beach in Corsica with my family.