Philana Bouvier, VP Fine Wine, Supplier Business Development at Republic National Distributing Company (RNDC), a world-class distributor in North America, has some recommendations for 2021. It stresses that critical thinking, the ability to innovate and the constant need to reinvent are prerequisites for creating brands that remain relevant and desirable for consumers, especially in this pandemic that has disrupted existing business models.
Bouvier is no stranger to adversity, because she started more than 20 years ago on the lowest step of the totem pole in the industry, when she moved to Hawaii at the age of 16 and graduated early from high school. Since then, she has held various management positions in the wholesale sector. She recently led the new business development at the Young’s Market Company and was responsible for executive training, lead management and the recruitment of new suppliers. She took up her current position after the merger of RNDC and Young’s Market in 2019.
But out of the chaos comes an opportunity. It is the ability to see the window and not the door that has allowed some cellars to flourish, while others struggle to survive.
Mrs Bouvier explains that the customers in her cellar, who were not on their guard during the first days of the pandemic, soon realised that they had to focus on new channels, as traditional local shops were being put to the test. They quickly targeted retailers who are likely to attract high-end customers who traditionally consume their brands in restaurants.
Your former customer who used to drink your wine in high-end restaurants now buys lobster and caviar at Club Canal, and your wine should be there too! And if they don’t, they’ll buy them from someone else. Consumer loyalty to wine and the recognition of labels is much lower than most people think.
Successful wineries have also focused on online sales to compensate for the lack of tasting rooms. And they took advantage of their existing relationships with their direct customers, taking advantage of a sales opportunity for them by using the data they had collected from previous interactions.
Those who reacted slowly did not have strong direct customer relationships or were not commercialized online. Your advice? Be flexible and ready to turn, Mr Bouvier says: The wineries that made the necessary changes in March and April may have had a better year than before Covid. If you’ve waited, you’re too late. Customers are more difficult to reach, their space for supplies can be reduced and they are busier than ever. Add to that the challenges and the lack of manpower that makes it difficult to switch screens.
Mr. Bouvier thanked his SVP, Estates Group, Marin Blomquist, RNDC California, for providing excellent insight and advice on how wine suppliers should define strategy and look to the future. He asks you to listen to your dealer, and she does: Take a tip! Don’t wait up for me. Listen to the smart members of your sales team. Leave out old prejudices.
She feels very privileged to work in an energy center like the NDCN, from where she witnessed a radical change in the use of television channels when the pandemic struck. On the spot you will find jewels, fine wines that some and the bartenders will recommend. Buyers trusted their favorite restaurants to bring in their favorite brands. Your house is a restaurant. If they can’t find the high-end brands they like in their local stores, they turn to online retailers like wine.com or Drizly. You can find some of them on the internet. Make sure your e-commerce works and that your digital assets are relevant!
Bouvier predicts that the wineries that will continue to flourish will be the ones that really pay attention to consumers’ changing purchasing habits. To be successful in the wine trade in 2021, wineries need to understand their distribution channel. Whether it’s online platforms, chains, independent retailers or stores, every U.S. state will be different.
Cellars that the club chain doesn’t accept now will be caught. Don’t be prejudiced by channels you haven’t used before! She suggests looking at what all club shops and online retailers like Amazon’s do. See also the whole product. Consumers change their buying habits, and you have to change with them.
It is also a time for wine companies to think about inclusive and welcoming diversity, which contributes to the development of the corporate culture and has a direct impact on consumers. It points to a brand, Honey, that immediately took the lead with a beautiful digital campaign that offered nice accents, such as beautiful gift bags and paella tastings. They realized how important it was to continue building relationships.
Specifically, she says: Use personal contact. Think about birthdays. Reach out to customers who haven’t shopped in a while and check them out. After all, wine is about relationships and brings people together.
Finally, take advantage of this great moment of change to follow the movement and see the glass half full. Because challenges make us stronger.
We all learn from each other, says Bouvier. Be open to constructive comments. They’re building a legitimate brand. People will remember what you did during the pandemic. Make sure your story is true, complete and honest. The younger generation is starting to consume wine, which is great news, but they also know how to unfairly promote traditional advertising. They don’t like to be sold or targeted. Rather, we need to understand where and how they shop.
The best thing about this pandemic, which could be the biggest chance in 2021? This is Bouvier: I’ve come a lot closer to my clients. Everyone wants to do better and help each other. It’s time to work together and get to know each other better.
Read the bold predictions of industry experts.