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Chris Orr Comments on…WSTA’s New Appontment

The Wine Show the weekend before last was by all accounts a success. There were some 12,000 visitors who pitched up over the course of the event to sniff, swirl and slurp, though I can’t imagine that much spitting went on. This weekend just gone, Oddbins held a wine fair in Edinburgh, where 2,500 or more customers paid their money and sipped their dues in wine. The Tesco Wine Fair just a month ago saw 3,200 pass through the doors and inspect their vinous wares

So from the looks of it, at the coal face of consumer behaviour, they seem to be warming up to wine and being a little bit more proactive. Which is why it was almost criminal to see the Wine and Spirit Trade Association floundering about in a rudderless fashion. Since they rather abruptly booted Quentin Rappoport into touch, they have continued to lobby parliament, continued to wage a war against strip stamps and continued to ensure the day to day running of the ‘business’ carries on. But anyone who’s worked in a business with no leader realises that little real progress will be made while the body remains literally headless.

Which is why the appointment of Jeremy Beadles is much welcomed. Firstly, because whatever hard work has been going on in the background with the WTSA, there certainly hasn’t been any work done front of house to ensure the trade itself didn’t lose confidence. Ask an average person in the wine trade what the WTSA was up to and I’m fairly sure most of them could not have told you. Some may even have laboured under the not entirely unfair assumption that there no longer was a trade association for wine companies. That’s going to be a huge obstacle to overcome in his first few months of the job.

Secondly, though, his current role is as managing director of the British Retail Consortium. In other words, he’s not from the wine trade, but from the business world. In other words, he won’t have any preconceptions about the business. In other words, he’s probably quite likely to be all grown up and used to working in the real world. That’s a description that can’t always be successfully applied to those that work in the trade. There’s a good proportion of us who’ll probably have the words “But that’s not how it works in the wine trade” inscribed upon our tombstones. So having someone who can possibly say, “I don’t care how it works in the wine trade, this is how it works in the real world of retail” will be a pretty invaluable opportunity. It will be painful to begin with, but then all the best things in life are – as the vicar said to the dominatrix. What we’ll hopefully get out of his appointment is a trade association that is credible not only with its members, but most importantly with the big wide world in which they have to operate.

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