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Thursday read: Living with lockdown - an agency view

Published:  09 April, 2020

Will Oatley, MD at Louis Latour Agencies, gives Andrew Catchpole a glimpse of the realities of life as a merchant adjusting to lockdown

“We shut our offices in Soho last Tuesday, for the safety of staff and their families – our first priority.

“It’s strange in our 30th year, our anniversary year, when we were due to celebrate on 1 July… but we are trying to be as upbeat as possible. I had our first virtual sales meeting last week, all the sales guys and girls dialed in, it went very well. They would normally be whizzing around seeing wholesalers, independents, restaurants, sommeliers, so we are looking to keep some structure, for people that are by their nature very motivated, keeping them sane.

“With wholesalers, we are extending credit terms, and are in very regular communication with customers, keeping in touch. We have cut the minimum order in half, and are sending out more mixed case offers, duty-paid pallet deals, and collecting stock from restaurants and hotels to try and support them.

“We have been doing wine education, with both pre-recorded session, and live webinars with Banfi, getting information across to sommeliers and keeping people in touch.

“The really important thing to say is that LCB [(London City Bond) has made a Herculean effort to keep things running, even though they have reduced resources and can’t guarantee the same level of delivery.

“We have three to four months of stock in the UK and can still deliver, and people are still placing orders.

Louis Latour stayed open until Friday the week before last for production, and until on Tuesday last week for collection, but like most wineries, it is now closed. And all the Champagne houses have now shut.

“I’ve spoken to the Kiwis, we are now back working with (Smith and Sheth winemaker) Steve Smith, they are still getting wine out to us – we have an order that’s just left, coming across with Hillebrand - but in New Zealand its more draconian, they are not allowed (wineries) to deliver to online.

“In Australia, we’ve spoken with Murray McHenry (McHenry Hohnen), they are still running, the cellar door is still open, so it’s really impressive how many people are struggling on, adapting to the times, and doing a fantastic job.

“I’m sure together we will all get through this, and people are still drinking, which is good, but these are very challenging times.”

Harpers will carry a report from the most recent Banfi webinar, on sustainability, early next week.