Sunday, September 29, 2013

Inventory Days Higher, Grape Prices Headed Lower

Pig in a Python
Here's a late edit to this post: If there are 6 pigs in a 7 pig python and the python doesn't ....er ... pass one of the pigs, how many pigs can the python eat?

To really understand what's going on with inventory, you have to get a handle on the whole chain: Consumer demand, depletions, distributor supply, winery supply, imports, bulk wine supply, forecast harvest yields, and non-bearing acreage. I spend a great deal of time trying to sort through each of those to get a sense of what is coming next for the producers. Its a nerdly existence but it helps the winery clients who bank with me so I take the time, research, read, and talk to a lot of smart people.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Grape Prices are Heading Lower.

Total Wine Sales Continue to Move Higher
About six weeks ago I was asked to speak about the economy, the environment for the US wine consumer, and the fine wine business. The meeting was part of a management retreat for a large wine company and included an acquaintance of mine who we will call "Deep Gullet." It included many of the distributor partners of the company as well so there was quite a wide perspective on the business. This wasn't a client of mine and never will be, but I took the invitation because I thought I might learn something from Deep Gullet and the other presenters. I did and came away with two important perspectives:

  1. The small 2011 vintage was really difficult for fine wine distributors. Allocations were more the norm for their retail accounts because there just wasn't enough wine produced.
  2. Attempting to increase bottle pricing - even in an allocated environment has been like pushing a wet string up the hill.
Overwhelmingly everyone believed 2012 was going to be a lot better from a supply perspective given the large and record harvest, so the allocation issue was probably temporary. The second issue however was about the consumer and that didn't seem to be going away. That got me wondering again about the popular press reports on supply shortages.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

What's the Surest Way To Fail in Business?


This is my 50th post and I'm celebrating by taking a vacation and  am writing this morning from my hotel balcony on Waikiki. That was an unabashed I'm-having-more-fun-than-you comment..... and I'm clearly warped to be writing on vacation.... Anyway...

Going through graduate school I took a class in Organization Behavior. I liked the class because it was high-level and covered a number of important theories, and yet - the title of the course always bothered me. It seems like such a non sequitur. It's as if an organization has feelings or predictive behavior, and of course it doesn't. Organizations and wine producers for that matter are made of people with feelings, perspectives, insecurities, and values. While marketing, sales, production, viticulture, and administration are all important parts of running any wine company, in the end without an established business culture used as a touchstone for behavior and decision-making, the other disciplines will struggle or even fail no matter how awesome the product or strategy. Leaving a company's values unclear or believing everyone just knows what you stand for without talking about it is the surest way to fail.