Carrie’s Corner: Mitigating the effects of Covid-19 in the wine industry

Wayne Buckley, the national sales and marketing manager for Wildekrans Wine Estate, joins Carrie Adams to discuss the government’s discrimination against the alcohol industry. Buckley details what Wildekrans has done to lessen the severe effects of Covid-19 on winemakers in South Africa. – Jarryd Neves

Wayne Buckley on the impact of Covid-19:

I think we can say nothing short of huge. It’s been a very tough last year. We started the year off very optimistic and excited about life. It was supposed to be ‘twenty plenty’. We got thrown a curve was one of the only countries in the world to be put into this alcohol ban. It took a lot of thought and preparation, for us to realise how we going to actually get through this all. For us, it’s been a very tough year.

We’ve got all these beautiful aspects to the farm – which are over and above what we do as a wine estate. But again, that also gets affected massively by the lack of international travel. So hotel beds are sitting empty and our restaurants are sitting empty. We did close the restaurant down temporarily during the period when there was no travel allowed at all. But now we’re open again. We’re actually getting some great support.

On what Wildekrans has done to mitigate the effects of Covid-19:

We’ve had to look at a few things. Everyone says your immediate thing is exports. But, touch and feel is a very important thing when it comes to exports. The importer wants to see you, meaning you have to jump in airplane, which is not possible at this point in time. You’ve got to go see them. It’s all good and well speaking over the phone and sending samples over. But they actually need to have that personal contact and that’s what humans require. We’ve had to think very cleverly about how we do that.

On selling wine during the Covid-19 pandemic:

Export is the one aspect. People are less inclined to jump into the car and go into a retailer these days. The big factor at the moment is online – and online doesn’t sell itself. It’s all good and well having a platform – which most people have these days – but it’s about marketing those platforms, which is the tricky part. I think that’s where a lot of the industry is not particularly doing well.

We are selling online and it’s been phenomenally better than I thought, because in previous times, online sales were a nice to have. Now, it’s an essential. Absolutely essential. With that, we’ve had to market it quite hard, and with marketing comes cost. We have had to be very clever in terms of how we market and what platforms we use. More ‘below the line’ than ‘above the line’ tactics, etc. We’ve used our online abilities as much as we can to be able to get the products out there.

On the landscape of the liquor chain:

Traditionally, you would have guys who order for the week. Now, it’s not about that because you don’t know how many people are going to come through in a week. You don’t know how your cash flow is going to look at the end of the week. If you’re doing continuous deliveries all the time, that’s where people are going to benefit. It’s not about waiting a few days for your wine. We’re in an age of instant gratification.

On liquor licensing laws pertaining to online sales:

It’s a gray area. Do they require a distribution license? Do they not? A lot of guys are trying to work out these nuts and bolts. We need clarity and we need to actually have an industry body that’s going to sit there and say, ‘this is what you guys can do. This is how we can help you’. Actually have seminars about how we can move forward to facilitate sales.

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