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Bouncing Back Q&A: Sam Thackeray, MD, Enotria & Coe

Published:  08 December, 2021

Continuing our seasonal Bouncing Back Q&A series, Sam Thackery of Enotria & Coe takes stock of the challenges and lessons of 2021 and considers the path ahead for the trade.

The beginning of January marked the end of the Brexit transition period – how well has your company adapted to this new normal?

We had been preparing for this transition since 2016. In reality, the effects of Brexit have been conflated with the supply chain disruption resulting from the pandemic, meaning the UK hasn’t been unique in being forced to adapt to a new normal.

Despite our several years of preparation, this year has thrown up a few curveballs. Our operations and demand planning teams have been incredibly agile and responsive. As a business, we have balanced that out with weighing up repercussions over rushing into any single course of action.

The WTSA contacted the government in November, outlining suggestions to help solve the current transport crisis. What measures have you put in place to cope with the inevitable delays and disruption?

Far too many to detail here. Our single most important measure in dealing with the disruption (which doesn’t look as though it’s going anywhere in the near future) is being as proactive and transparent in communications with our customers as possible. This is a team effort, including our operations and sales teams.

What is the most important business lesson you've learnt during the pandemic?

Good communication is critical to business survival for internal stakeholders and external understanding. Also, God laughs at people who make plans.

How can the trade 'build back better' during this unprecedented period? How can we change the way we do business for the better?

The past 18 months have thrown into sharp relief that as an industry, we fell into the habit of undervaluing certain jobs and skillsets. As labour shortages have caused serious disruption for the trade, we have been forced to recognize that, for example, kitchen porters and drivers are just as essential to the smooth running of the trade as head chefs and sommeliers. I hope that the trade will build back better with a realignment of how we value all of the cogs that make up a healthy industry.

The world has changed an enormous amount in the past two years. Building back better now necessitates being much more conscientious about laying the foundations for a healthy future for our industry. This involves all elements of environmental sustainability, as well as nurturing future talent and creating a culture that celebrates the diversity and complexity of the modern hospitality industry.

Has a succession of lockdowns fundamentally altered consumer behaviour in your experience?

That remains to be seen. Lockdowns predominantly seemed to accelerate trends that were already in evidence at the beginning of 2020, such as premiumization and interest in the low & no category. It is still too early to say whether these changes are here to stay. One thing that has certainly emerged as a result of lockdowns is the growing divergence between consumer behaviour in different channels, or on different consumption occasions.

Are you happy with the budget announcements made in the autumn?

The autumn budget could certainly have been worse for the drinks trade. Frankly, our cost of goods has been so badly hit by exponentially rising costs of glass, cardboard, containers and shipping that the autumn budget was somewhat overshadowed.

In light of the reintroduction of stricter covid measures, what are your expectations for Christmas 2021?

Anecdotally, we have already had some customers reporting that up to 50% of their December bookings were cancelled off the back of the easily misinterpreted comments by the UK’s Health Security Agency. That said, the only measures that have technically been reintroduced are around mask-wearing. There is no reason that should hinder a successful peak trading period, so our expectation is that spontaneous festive get-togethers will outweigh any hesitation, as UK consumers see that the show can still go on.

What are your priorities and predictions for 2022?

2022 will mark the 50th anniversary of Enotria Winecellars, and celebrating how far we’ve come in that time will be our top priority. We want to bring together our producers, our customers and our teams as we look at how the industry has changed, and where it is headed next.

In terms of the broader trade, consumer appetite and even UK business at large, it feels as though 2022 is going to be a big year for sustainable business. We are becoming much more sophisticated in how we define sustainability, what we work on and what consumers expect. In 2022, Enotria&Coe will be looking to develop our commitment to sustainability in three key areas: our climate impact, creating a fulfilling work environment for our teams, and giving back to our community.

Can the digital revolution help the trade engage with consumers in a way that would have been impossible 30 years ago?

It can, and already has. Digital has brought product and more importantly, the stories that bring each product to life, to consumers’ fingertips. Whether it is through rapid-delivery services, or content that gets consumers emotionally invested in a brand’s story, digital is giving the trade new avenues to engage consumers. That said, it has to be used judiciously. Not all digital exposure engages consumers correctly, so brands should be careful to gauge what consumers are genuinely interested in.

Quickfire questions:

Red, white or rose?

Red. From our portfolio it would be Haven Pinot Noir from Kooyong in Mornington Peninsula.

Film or book?

Both, but the luxury of sitting back with a good book is unbeatable.

Champagne or English sparkling?

Either, but it has to be Blanc de Blancs.

European city break, or UK staycation?

Neither. I prefer being off the beaten track.

Favourite part of the year?

Summer: rosé and BBQs.