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New Horizons Q&A: Michelle Brampton, Treasury Wine Estates

Published:  12 January, 2021

With an end game in sight with the vaccine in 2021, we speak to members of the trade about their forecasts and plans for the year ahead.

We continue our series with Michelle Brampton, managing director, EMEA at Treasury Wine Estates.

Given everything that’s happening, from Covid to Brexit, what are your three predictions for the next 12 months?

Life will, hopefully, begin to ease from April onwards when there is further vaccine roll out and the weather improves, and then, it would then be great to see things open up a bit more by the summer and people enjoying themselves a bit!

People will embrace life and be keen to do all the things they have missed but still with some caution and there will be expectations that businesses take care of their employees and customers properly.

The industry is, unfortunately, going to endure the inevitable shakeout from the problems of the last nine months. We must all be prepared to come together as an industry to support each other through that period.

This is an uncertain future for all concerned, when you and your team sit around the table what conversations are you having?

The first topic is people, health and safety – who is well both physically and mentally; who needs a follow up conversation followed by what else can we be doing for people. So is that more education and training, or focus on reward and recognition? Or about how to create and deliver the team some online social events that are fun, bringing everyone together as best we can in this current environment. It is so important to me and the leadership team to keep the fantastic culture that we have here alive.

The second agenda item is stock management. It has been the biggest business challenge of 2020 and continues to keep us busy.

What is your biggest concern about Brexit?

Brexit has been the other factor delivering challenges around stock management in the short term. But in the mid to long term my concern surrounds the ease of doing business and the extra cost and administration.

How do you feel the trading environment is going to play out post Brexit?

For the wine category, the agreement on tariffs was good news and for Australia the possibility of an FTA will be beneficial. There are, however, still many moving parts including tariffs in China potentially changing demand for Australian wines and therefore supply dynamics, which will create different opportunities and challenges for the next couple of years. It’s a time to be looking for the opportunities and being flexible enough to adapt the business model across multiple channels.

What areas of your business has Covid had the biggest impact on?

The biggest impact for us has been in the supply team. In retail, sales have increased both in the UK and notably the Nordic markets and this has kept the supply chain team very busy with increased demand and in different locations depending on border closures.

How have you seen sales evolve over 2020 and heading into 2021? Are people drinking more or less?

There have been studies released in the last six months that have shown overall consumption has dropped amongst certain segments of UK society over this time. It’s not a black and white story of lockdown leading to high consumption, it’s just more visible in the retail data which obviously ignores the huge drop off in on-trade consumption. Our sales in the off-trade have seen solid growth, but that is as much down to our strength in retail and outstanding brands. Shoppers have turned to well-known brands that they can rely on through this uncertain time.

What have you done to take advantage of the rise in off-trade sales during lockdowns?

While we are pleased with our off-trade sales, this in turn provided challenges with supply. So, we have spent our time in lockdown doing our utmost to service our customer base as best as we could. We managed and allocated stock carefully, trying to avoid out of stocks. We have also focused on digital marketing to support online purchasing and visibility of our brands.

If you had to pick the next big thing in wine what would it be?

It’s not brand new, but I can’t stress enough how important sustainability will continue to be for wine in the years ahead, whether that’s through new packaging/formats or scrutiny of the end to end supply chain.

If you could change one thing about the wine industry, what would it be?

I want to see greater diversity in leadership in the wine industry. I am proud that TWE has placed on record that we will achieve 50% women representation in leadership roles by 2025, and I am even more proud that my leadership team is already 50:50. But I don’t see this or broader diversity across the industry. Diversity is becoming an increasingly important, complex and nuanced issue. Things need to change.

Quickfire questions:

New versus Old World?

New world

Red, white or rose?


Screw top or cork?

Screw top

Bottle versus box?


Still versus sparkling?