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Looking ahead: David Gleave, Liberty Wines

Published:  21 August, 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 continue our series with insights from David Gleave, managing director at Liberty Wines

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

We have had a very strong first half of 2019, with double digit growth on last year. Part of this is due to growth from new agencies such as Piper Heidsieck, Mandrarossa and Garzon, and part to growth from new and existing customers. We’ve seen particular growth in the premium sector, despite the stagnant nature of the economy.

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

The lows have been the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, and the amount of time and energy we’ve had to put into planning. The highs have been the way in which our team has responded so positively to the uncertainty, and the difficult market conditions created by the singular incompetence of our political class.

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

Currency and the economy. Sterling’s travails are widely publicised, but could get worse if we leave the EU without a deal. If we do, we will of course have to start negotiating a new trade deal with the EU from a position of weakness, so Sterling could remain weak for a protracted period. The economy is weak and getting weaker, something which is putting more and more pressure on our customers.

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 will be repeating what we did prior to the end of March: building stocks and taking out forward cover on sterling. Our aim is to protect our customers from the worst effects of a departure from the EU at the busiest time of the year.

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?

We can’t do anything about the economy or the abject quality of our politicians, so all we can do is to try to be as good as we can at what we do. We need to improve our service and help our customers sell better wine.

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

We added several important agencies at the beginning of the year, so will be working hard on doing for them what we promised to do. As a result, we won’t be adding any major producers.

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

The continued decline in consumption that is being accompanied by a move to wines of greater quality and provenance.

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

An announcement that another referendum will be held on the terms of the agreement we have reached with the EU.