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Living with lockdown - Freixenet Copestick

Published:  21 April, 2020

Damian Clarke, MD at Freixenet Copestick, gives Lisa Riley a glimpse of the realities of life as a wholesaler adjusting to lockdown. 

“We made the decision quite early to close the office and for everyone to work from home. We tried it for a day on Wednesday 18 March, reopened on the Thursday for people to collect anything extra they required and we have all been at home since Friday 20. 

“Freixenet Copestick adds significant category value through the marketing of our three pillar brands, i heart Wines, Freixenet and Mionetto. We have had to change the nature and tone of our communications. We have cut back on traditional media and in-store marketing but we have used social media to ask our consumers what they want to hear from us. The answer is that they want information about our wines that is relevant to staying in, such as food matching suggestions and cocktail ideas. 

“A great example of us building on that feedback is Instagram Live, where Trish, one of our sales team, is hosting fun i heart Wines introductions to wine tasting, wine and takeaway pairing and knowing your grapes. 

“The virus and lockdown has impacted our sales channels in different ways. The most dramatic effect has been in the on-trade where we have seen sales collapse following the closure of bars and restaurants. We are trying to support our customers through credit terms and in some cases by moving stock between customers. At the other end of the scale, sales at on-line retailer Slurp, in which we are a shareholder, have gone through the roof so we are helping them by sourcing extra stocks and providing additional people.

“The other key issue is looking after our employees. Making sure that they have what they need, giving them flexibility around work patterns and ensuring their wellbeing.

“In terms of in-house, communication is key. It is a bit harder to have those important but informal conversations that naturally take place in an office environment. The leadership team is meeting twice a week by video conference and all the other teams are meeting at least once a week. 

“Last week we had a full company meeting by video conference. There were images of 54 familiar faces looking at me from my laptop screen, all strangely quiet as I had asked for questions via chat.

“We are also encouraging everyone to stay in touch with their colleagues on a more informal basis – pick up the phone to replicate that coffee machine conversation!

“We are continuing to launch NPD. One of the major pieces currently is the Freixenet Italian Wine Collection. These three wines, which are in diamond-cut bottles similar to those used for Freixenet Prosecco and Sparkling Rosé, have obviously received a great deal of interest from all customers but we have had to delay our on-trade launch and some of our launch activity. The point is that whilst we have to adjust to the current situation, a lot has stayed the same. Our trade customers are keen to progress a launch that will bring excitement to the declining Italian wine sector and we know our consumers are exceptionally excited about these wines, albeit they will now be virtually sharing them with their friends.

“Another example of business as normal but with a twist is the launch of i heart Superheroes Prosecco. i heart has always maintained a dialogue with its very engaged consumers and personalisation of I heart Prosecco was already popular, but in line with the mood of the country we made these 2,500 personalised bottles available to giveaway and the consumer response has been amazing, with over 5,000 nominations so far. 

“As we come out on the other side, my hope is that the Freixenet Copestick team has remained well throughout the lockdown, that our customers are able to bounce back quickly, that we can run any postponed marketing activity later in the year and that we can continue to live our motto of Celebrate Life! We are working hard to ensure all these things happen.”