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Everyone Stops For ‘T’

The WSA has become the WSTA to demonstrate its commitment to all sectors of the trade, especially, of course, the wine fraternity

In her annual review, outgoing WSTA (Wine and Spirit Trade Association, formally WSA) chairman, Joanna Delaforce admitted the past year has been “a troubled one” for the industry body. Not only was there an enforced period of change after severe criticism from some elements of the trade (in particular the wine sector) questioning the effectiveness of the organisation in representing its interests, but 2004 was a particularly turbulent time for all the industry, with the government and media attention.

Certainly, the association can hold its head up high and say it has taken a long hard look at itself. A Way Forward Committee was established, which was charged with the task of advising on the future of the association. Chaired by Barry Sutton (now this year’s WSTA chairman) and comprising eight industry leaders, including Tim How of Majestic Wine Warehouses and Chris Searle of Bacardi Martini, the committee proposed “swift and radical change” according to Sutton. “Our main recommendation was that there should be no diminution of the association’s ability to represent the whole wine and spirit trade nationwide. To underline this determination the name of the association has been changed to The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA), embracing importers, freight forwarders, warehouse keepers, wholesalers, wine producers and retailers across the country. We also recognised that the growing importance of the wine trade required that a significantly higher priority had to be given to support the interests of the wine trade in particular.”

To usher in the changes a new “leaner” executive board has been announced which represents all the main constituents of the trade and will be overlooking the challenges the WSTA has set itself for the coming year. In 2005, Sutton says, the association will be continuing to concentrate on “the Licensing Act, which affects all traders, and we are doing all we can to help, regardless of whether traders are members. We are working closely with the government on this nationally and locally to try to ameliorate the worst effects. The trend towards closer national controls of alcohol sales and promotional activity also needs careful attention. We support measures to reduce alcohol abuse but are working hard with the government to ensure that any measures taken are rational and will be effective without damage to the legitimate trade, and we will be ensuring that we gain and maintain industry support, which is vital.”

But is all this huff and puff about modernisation really making a difference, or, despite all the rhetoric, are we left with the same organisation but with an added “T”? Only time will tell.

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