The "credit crunch" has taken over from the "celtic tiger" as the most overused cliche going around these days. In fact, I never thought I would say it, but I'm almost getting nostalgiac for the celtic tiger. The markets are tanking again today, it's like dealing with a manic depressive these days - elated one day and suicidal the next. The drugs don't seem to be working.
Almost everyone who comes in to the shop these days ask the question : "How's business?". There are any number of ways of answering this question, but I have started answering it with alarming honesty (alarming for them, not for me).
The truth is, since the middle of this year, consumer spending has fallen through the floor. There is an unwillingness to spend, even amongst those who have money. There is a nervousness about the near future and what it holds, understandable really with all the shit that is hitting the fan at the moment. July was ok, August was shockingly bad and Sept has been ok again. We will trade at a level lower than in recent years for the foreseeable future and we will just have to work hard to keep our customers and pick up new ones. We have always prided ourselves on high levels of customer service, but we need to up the ante on all aspects of our business.
People are still coming in, but are buying fewer bottles and are looking at the prices a bit more closely and looking for value. Our 10% off on Italy (in Sept) and France this month have been really well received, whereas we have done sales in the past with little or no reaction. The key will be to keep the quality as high as ever as this is THE most important aspect of value for money for us and without a focus on quality, we lose our raison d'etre.
So, bottom line? Reduce expectations, work harder and keep the quality higher than ever. Good news for our customers and if they are happy, we are happy. The wine trade (as any of you who work in it will know) is not particularly profitable; it is marginal at the best of times. We didn't make a killing during the boom times (we made a living!) and we would hope to see out the current downturn and come out the other side stronger than ever.
So, my response to people with the question outlined above is: "Support your local shops, they need your business". Not quite the "grand, not too bad" they were expecting, but they did ask...