Although I am keen to steer away from using what have become clichéd terms like ‘new normal’ and ’unprecedented change’ it’s difficult to avoid alluding to the big macro-influences of our time when you are an importer and distributor of wine. In fact, you could say that as a company so heavily involved in the global supply chain, North South Wines is right in the grip of the storm when it comes to feeling the force of the global economy.
Covid-19 continues to tip the wine market on its edge and Brexit has unleashed a tirade of paperwork, delays and potential tariffs upon us. We are all in this together and will work through it together too and we, like so many other businesses, have been required to adapt and endure. For what has been one of the toughest and most challenging twelve months for me both personally and professionally since North South Wines was established in 2014, I’m glad to say I think we have ‘weathered’ the storm seriously well.
I am tremendously proud of what the team have achieved just by pulling together.
Indeed, a lot has changed at North South Wines in the last fourteen months and I feel that now is a great time to provide an official update on what’s been going on.
For a start, we have just finished our Financial year 20/21 on the 31st March and we had a record breaking March, with our turnover now at £27.5 million. We are now selling close to 1.35 million nine litre cases annually and I’m ecstatic with these results. I’d like to publicly thank the team and our suppliers that have been through thick and thin with us – and also our customers who have remained tremendously loyal and supportive.
There have been challenges for all of us but through great partnerships and communication we have survived and in some cases thrived, and we can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I’ve worked in the wine industry for over fifteen years now and I have got used to the fact that – for an age old industry that’s steeped in history and tradition – the only constant in the wine industry is change.
It always manages to keep us on our feet, put it that way!
So, here at North South Wines HQ, we responded to the severity of recent months by closely monitoring the market; using our knowledge to help our wine producing partners; and continuing to make life as easy and stable for our customers and supply partners as we can.
So what can I tell you about the market so far in 2021? Well, as well as a new generation of wine lover emerging; consumer habits continue to veer away from quantity and towards quality.
We have definitely seen a huge shift from £5-7 to £7+ RRP’s and anything that ticks the boxes for authenticity, sustainability and novel. We don’t see this demand changing in the short term as consumers have adapted to being at home with meal kits and experimenting with new wines to their repertoire.
You only need to try to order some garden furniture (most out of stock until September 2021!) to see that we are planning to spend more time at home and in the garden this year.
Demand for low and no-alcohol wines is still gaining ground at a rapid pace and as early supporters of this category this is great to see and be part of. This trend really is ‘unprecedented’ and its an exciting time to be in the trade and a distributor of wine.
Covid -19 definitely has made us all more aware of what we are eating and drinking. Eighteen months ago at North South Wines we employed a full time technical manager (Emily Brighton – also studying for her MW) to start the work on becoming BRCGS Agent and Broker Certified. This has been an amazing framework to ensure that we have quality management at the forefront of everything we do adding another layer of due diligence to all our customers. In addition to this, the pre-audit in March 21 was very positive and we are looking to have the final audit in June with the expectation of a great result.
Although it’s something that’s been gaining ground for some time, businesses have never historically had to stand up for political, environmental and societal principles or prove their contribution to the greater good. We’re all in new territory.
So, having recently exceeded the £100 million (since we set up in 2014) sales milestone here at North South Wines, we decided to take action and put our money where our mouth is by achieving something that no other UK wine distributor has managed to do: Become B-Corp accredited.
B-Corp accreditation requires us to measure the impact our business operations have on our workers, community, environment and customers. It forces us to take responsibility for our actions and again provides a great framework to follow.
What’s more, the level of transparency it demands underpins North South Wines’ mission to champion better business through greater accountability, whilst simplifying and improving wine distribution through responsible business processes.
This single statement binds the team here at North South Wines to a common purpose. We are today working collectively towards discovering and distributing great value wines that UK consumers will love; in a way that upholds the commitments we’ve made to our partners, employees and our planet.
B-Corp accreditation proves that our commitment to social and environmental causes is embedded in North South Wines legal and cultural framework. It forces us to contemplate who we are as a business and the type of world we want to be moving forwards.
As I bring this update to a close, I find myself becoming incredibly conscious about how fortunate we’ve been to be able to spend the last few months thinking about the long term in this way. It’s a privilege that many individuals and companies will not get to experience due to the global pandemic.
So, this is perhaps the right time for me to speak on behalf of myself and my team and to extend my deepest sympathies to all individuals who have been – and are still – affected by Covid 19.
As the chilly UK spring starts to unravel into a more temperate British summertime, one could be forgiven for believing brighter horizons could possibly be in store.
However, whilst we are waiting for these new horizons to materialise, we always have love, friendship, hope…and of course wine… to help us through.
P.S With the pandemic forcing me to be at home it was the perfect time to add a new addition to the family (see photo). Meet Rosie the Red Fox Labrador, she has settled in really well and even Jimmy her big brother loves her now!