Today provides an update in light of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is a time of significant change. We are England’s strongest wine brand with a leading position in the UK grocery / off-trade, and rapidly growing on-line sales. With strong assets, good management and a healthy cash position, we believe we are very well placed to weather the crisis and thrive in the aftermath.
Our management team and Board have been focussed on delivering swift responses to a number of recent government announcements.
Following the Governments advice to close pubs, theatres and hospitality venues to contain the spread of the virus, we have seen our sales in supermarkets and off licences grow substantially and our online sales multiply dramatically as customers seek to continue to enjoy our brands at home.
It is too early to extrapolate any trends but if the current sales rate continued the off-trade sales and online growth of our wines would more than make up for the loss of on-trade wine sales. It will certainly leave us with a stronger business and an increased market share in these areas where we see long term growth.
Sadly, we needed to close our tours, shop, restaurant and bar at the state of the art Curious Brewery in Ashford and our hospitality, shop and tours at our beautiful winery in Tenterden. Given that our beer and cider sales are largely focussed on the on-trade, in order to conserve our cash, we have taken the decision to stop brewing and close the brewery until the on-trade returns to normality. We have sufficient stocks / work in progress to trade through with bottled product to take home and online customers for up to 6 months.
We are grateful for the support shown by the Government in enabling us to furlough the staff directly affected by the change to the business. It will enable us to get back up to speed quickly when the all clear is given. We have ensured that all furloughed staff are on 80% of their salaries/wages. Those still working will ensure we deliver to our off-trade customers and online consumers, will tend the vineyards and create the wines in the winery. We are ensuring that their safety is our first concern. We have moved staff to work from home wherever possible.
Our board, executive and senior managers in the company have all taken 20-40% salary cuts for the duration. We have also taken significant steps to conserve cash and reduce spend across the business and have suspended all non-contracted capital expenditure with the exception of the committed development of the vineyards planted in 2018 and 2019.
Following the above actions and based on prudent assumptions we have adequate cash for the foreseeable future.
“These are challenging times, but we believe that the company is in a better position – strong in online and off-trade sales – than nearly all its competitors in English wine and craft beer. We have a good relationship with our bank HSBC, solid tangible assets and great brands. I believe we are in a very strong position to weather the crisis. Demand for our brands remains extremely healthy. We have taken swift and decisive action to ensure that the company is well placed for the aftermath and has the talent to compete immediately.” Frazer Thompson, CEO
We will update the market and shareholders on further developments as and when they arise.