Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Bouncing Back Q&A: David Gates, CEO, Laithwaites

Published:  13 December, 2021

Continuing our seasonal Bouncing Back Q&A series, David Gates, CEO, Laithwaites 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?

As for most people, it has unquestionably added cost and complexity. But we had pre-empted most of the problems and so the new normal has been manageable. Supply chain issues are not confined to the EU, of course, and our operations teams have been just brilliant at playing ‘Supply Chain Issue Whack-a-Mole’!

The WSTA 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?

We made a deliberate decision to hold higher levels of stock in our warehouses last year – that has helped from an inbound perspective. Plus our delivery and carrier partners, such as Yodel, have been excellent at ensuring no disruption to our customers. As it has for many, the HGV shortage has significantly increased costs for us, but we haven’t passed those on to our customers.

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

Agility is a choice. When you choose to give people the freedom to move fast and make decisions, they will thrive.

How can the trade 'build back better' and change the way it does business?

Rather than the pandemic, I would point this question at the bigger issue: sustainability and the environment. As an industry we need to join together to make a massive shift in the way we operate and reduce our carbon emissions. Shipping heavy bottles around the world is just not sustainable, for example. At Laithwaites we have committed to be Net Carbon Neutral by 2035, which is a scary but very necessary target.

Has a succession of lockdowns fundamentally altered consumer behaviour?

There has definitely been a shift to shopping on-line and we expect this to last as people appreciate the quality, convenience and value.

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

While we welcomed the duty freeze in autumn, the amendments to the wine duty rates would be appalling for the wine industry and for consumers. The proposals add immense bureaucracy in managing different duty rates, as well as adding 40-70 pence (in some cases £1.20) to the cost of a bottle of >13.5% ABV wine. There is clearly a better way that both successfully addresses the principles of the Government’s policy, while not adding unworkable bureaucracy for business and disproportionately penalising wine drinkers.

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

We are seeing strong online sales in the lead up to Christmas. In particular, our wine advent calendars have been a big hit with customers. We expect to see the season’s trend of stocking up on favourites continue right up to our delivery cut-off dates.

What are your priorities and predictions for 2022?

Inflation is likely to be the number one issue for business in 2022. So our priorities will be to continue to show agility in dealing with the on-going supply chain issues and to help counteract the significant inflationary pressures that we are all facing.

Quickfire questions:

Red, white or rosé? Red

Film or book? Book

Champagne or English sparkling? English all the way. Harrow & Hope or Wyfold – of course

European city break, or UK staycation? European mountains – particularly Piedmont

Favourite part of the year? The first week of July and Henley Royal Regatta