We all have theories and ideas and we like to share them, but there is no time like a crisis to test them! My late father in law’s theory was that in our type of business, you are only as strong as your distribution. If there’s ever been a test for this idea, it was the Covid-19 ban on liquor sales in SA, followed by a flood of orders and impatient customers.
Not being able to sell wine or invite people to your wine tourism experience, cut the legs out from under our industry. Lockdown forced everything online and it was up to digital communication to ensure brand presence and to support our customer base. As lockdown was extended and wine stocks at home started to dwindle, the industry saw a dramatic increase in online wine orders with delivery pending the lift of the ban.
There was no better time to test the much talked about importance of distribution. Suddenly you had all the factors. Big volumes, limited staff and hours, eagerplane customers and dependence on a third party. If ever there was a challenge and an opportunity for those in distribution! At our farms, as soon as they were allowed to, a skeleton staff started packing orders, completing waybills, communicating with couriers, planning delivery. When sales and deliveries openend on 1 June, we were prepared and it was all hands on deck at our estates with staff volunteering to help our drivers with local deliveries. Some customers even had the Cellarmaster drop off their orders and we had many happy customers.
But the challenge of distribution is often in factors you don’t control. It is not always possible to deliver the order personally and all industries have to rely on trucks and drivers, trains, planes and couriers for the success of their business. Talking to wine industry colleagues and looking at social media, I can see that the national delivery of orders turned out to be an exceptional challenge to the distribution system. Not only did this confirm that you are only as strong as your distribution, but also that you are only as strong as your weakest link. (Read more)
A few years ago, I shared some ideas about the new face of distribution. (Read more) It was all about how technology will change wheels and warehousing. There were dreams about drone deliveries, driverless trucks and automated warehouses, but there were also the more short-term practical ideas of a synchronised supply chain and shorter delivery times. The effect of the pandemic showed us that efficient distribution does not depend on driverless trucks and clever warehouses. Efficient distribution starts with systems, commitment and communication.
Some South African industries came to an abrupt halt on 27 March and for some, such as the hospitality and restaurant industries, Covid-19 had a devastating effect. For some industries and companies, the pandemic was the perfect time and place to position themselves. (Read more) Some rose to the challenge and some did not, but at least we’ve learned that distribution is as important as Dr. Rupert believed and that it is crucial for your reputation, to surround yourself with the best in the business.