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Looking Back, Forging Ahead Q&A: Michael Awin, ABS

Published:  15 December, 2023

Following another eventful year for the drinks trade, Michael Awin of Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies (ABS) reflects on the highs and lows of 2023, plus the hopes and plans for the business in the year ahead.

How has business been for you across 2023 when compared with 2022 (and pre-pandemic)?

We have set aside comparisons to 2020, 2021 and 2022 as the sales graphs looked like the readings on a seismograph with all the massive peaks and troughs. By no means have things returned to normal for so many reasons, and more than ever we are having to balance the interpretation of results against all parameters, turnover, case sales and margins. But I think taking everything into account we are correct in being happy by turning in just above 2019 results.

What, for you, were the specific highs of 2023?

In terms of the wine trade, it has to be the utter relief that the chancellor didn’t increase duty again – small mercies!

And the lows?

Therefore the massive duty increase that came into effect on 1 August. That together with the number of fabulous people we have lost in the wine trade this year.

More specifically, how has the cost-of-living crisis impacted and what have you done to help mitigate the effects for you and your customers?

It has impacted all sectors of the trade and we have had to work harder than ever to deliver value in our offering. We are vehement at ABS that the constant increases in our wines brought about by increased cost of goods, shipping, warehousing, transport and duty doesn’t see the steady decline of quality simply to offer a more affordable product to consumers who have less money to spend. Difficult times.

How much of a concern are the duty hikes, will you have to alter the way you do business moving forward?

With the already steady decline in alcohol consumption, increases in wine duty does nothing to help our industry. However, the wine industry must stop chasing low-priced products and stripping out the quality of wines offered just to deliver alcohol in a bottle. There are so many naturally lower alcohol wines (from Germany for instance) that can be considered rather than stripping the character out of wines by watering them down to 11%. This practice is not going to do anything for the long-term future of our industry.

As a business, what goals have you set for 2024 and how do you expect to achieve them?

Not trying to be clever, keeping it simple and sticking to our values by continuing to deliver great value and fantastic wines from around the world to our loyal customers. For everything else, watch this space….

More generally, in terms of business, how do you predict the drinks landscape will look this time next year?

It will be a very different playing field, Low&No will continue to grow, consumer spend will tighten, and unfortunately, there will be consolidation and casualties both in the on- and off-trade. One thing is for sure, there will be plenty of opportunities.

Quick fire questions:

Champagne or English sparkling?


Cocktail or straight spirit?

Depends on the quality of the spirit, but straight.

Rioja or Mendoza?


Orange wine – yay or nay?


Michelin-starred or relaxed bistro?

Relaxed bistro

Desert island tipple?

Delicious refreshing quality German Riesling

Low or no?