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Angela Mount comment

Published:  08 June, 2009

The stands are down, the hoards of overseas producers have flown home and the fun of the Fair is over for another year... but in our current cash and margin strapped industry, with the words "global recession" swirling around our ears, was it fun?

Whilst exhibitor numbers were down, and some of the more ostentatious stands toned down, it was encouraging to hear that 2009 attracted the 2nd highest ever number of visitors. Admittedly, I would hazard a guess that there were fewer people manning stands, and a far higher proportion of visitors walking the aisles networking for jobs. the mood was different.

More hard core sense of purpose, a sense of quiet determination. Less unplanned wandering around the aisles, more focussed agendas and a sense of urgency. Far less socialising. a hard-working, effective Fair. Seminars focussed on 'how to get our industry through the current maelstrom of economic and social issues'.

Much soul searching went on in boardrooms across the UK wine industry to determine the benefits of the investment required to exhibit. Those who chose not to, took a risk. In the words of Hillary Clinton ' Never waste a crisis'.

There is always an opportunity in a downturn to win market share. In every category.Consumers don't stop spending; during the recession of 1990/91, consumer spending on alcohol actually increased by 10%. What consumers do is adjust their attitudes and behaviours, which then define the new 'normal'. The winners in our Industry will be those who have that insight and identify ways of working with key customers, in whichever sector, to fulfil those 'new norms'.

From a supplier perspective, understanding how your customers are reacting to the recession, and focussing on fulfilling their business needs is paramount. Travel budgets have been cut, some buyers are less able to catch up with their key producers and therefore the international forum that is the LIWTF becomes more important. The buyers I spoke to had full agendas; but maybe broader than in previous years. With existing suppliers; with potential suppliers. And those suppliers who are ready, 'fit for purpose', and deliver at every level, in their respective market sectors are the ones that will survive.

Price and promotional discussions will never go away, accept them as part of the need to fulfil consumer expectations or don't trade in that sector of the market. But by developing a broader vision in terms of strategic partnerships, the opportunity to develop the ' engage and trade up' option still exists. But has to be part of the package, certainly from the retail perspective.

A final quote ' Strategy is a sense of direction around which to improvise'.

Angela Mount