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Bouncing Back Q&A: Jamie Wynne Griffiths, Propeller

Published:  26 August, 2021

It’s been a one-of-a-kind 18 months for the trade. Here, as we begin to push into the second half of the second year of the pandemic, Harpers is catching up with businesses to find out how they’re focusing on recovering from the shock, and what challenges and opportunities lie ahead.

We continue our series with views from Jamie Wynne Griffiths, founder, Propeller.


How ‘back to normal’ are you as a business?

Our genesis was lockdown, but inevitably it was like creating a business in a silo, so the opportunity to now get out there, taste in person with retailers and get back to the coalface couldn’t be more welcome. For us it really is the new normal.

What are your priorities and predictions for the second half of 2021?

Key priorities are bedding in the new sales force and supporting them out in the market, but fingers crossed we can spend some time with our producers too. We’ve garnered some amazing relationships over Zoom, Whatsapp and email and they’ve entrusted us with their future in the UK without ‘properly’ meeting, so finally sharing some food and wine with them on their home turf or here will be a special joy.

Predictions? Dare we contemplate the return of some restrictions in the Autumn? Probably. I can’t see another lockdown getting off the ground, though. Many families (like my own) have given up on the idea of a foreign holiday this year so the disposable income available for wine and other essentials as the evenings begin to draw in will be an inevitable boost to indie retailers. It’s also very heartening to hear that almost all of them have not only gained new customers over the last 18 months but they’ve hung on to them too – and that bodes well for the sector.

What kind of Christmas are you anticipating and how are you prepping?

The term ‘pent-up demand’ is very familiar now, but it equally applies to Christmas which – let’s face it – was effectively cancelled at the last minute last year. The chance for families to embrace the season and each other in December will bring with it huge demand for the finest food and drink our great retailers across the UK can muster. We’re very lucky that our business model allows us to ramp up stock without impinging on cashflow, so we’ve already started gearing up our inventory from deep sea partners in South Africa, Australia and Chile and will start the same process with Euro suppliers in September.

Do you anticipate making a full recovery from the pandemic? What timeframes are realistic?

We’re very fortunate, for want of a better word, that it’s not so much a recovery as a the prospect of the open road that now awaits us. I hope we’ve created a relevant, dynamic business that can weather whatever challenges still await us.

How heavily have you been impacted by staffing issues?

Recruiting the sales team wasn’t straightforward or overnight, but we’re really pleased with the calibre of candidates we managed to attract. Staffing issues in the supply chain are a whole different matter though. The shortage of drivers adds at least 10 days to the import process currently, on top of the mind-numbing, bureaucratic delays that we’re already painfully aware of.

Are you anticipating more Covid-related restrictions?

I think it’s inevitable that the usual cycle of students returning home at Christmas etc are going to cause a squeeze on infection rates, but we’re all still wearing masks and I don’t see that changing any time soon so, from the off-trade side at least, we’re not unduly worried.

How have drinking habits changed post-lockdown?

‘Less but better’ seems to be the consistent mantra, and long may that last. We don’t dabble in key ‘commodities’ like Prosecco, Pinot Grigio, UK-bottled New Zealand Sauvignon et al, and whilst we’ve got plenty of wines that RRP under £12, the main interest is around the £17-25 bracket. Our Ludopata Marselan (£17.99) from Chile and the sea-aged Albarino from Attis (£69.99) have been recent hits, by way of example.

Lastly, if you could make one change in government tomorrow, what would you choose?

The easy answer involves Mr & Mrs Johnson relocating to the Outer Hebrides (or Mars) so that Boris can write his memoirs, but we need a more fundamental change in the calibre and integrity of the people we entrust to run our country. That perhaps starts with a robust, durable and relevant opposition.


Quick-fire questions:

France, Spain or Italy?


USA or OZ?


Port or Sherry?


English bubbles or Champagne?

English bubbles. Corrine O’Connor, my esteemed colleague, would shoot me on sight if said anything else

Go-to drink to watch with the Olympics / tennis / football?

Ostara Red Vermouth with a slice of orange, or a can of Bowl Grabber Alvarinho