Blog: Olly WehringUS Drinks Conference 2008 - quote, unquote

Olly Wehring | 16 October 2008

Earlier this week, I was not only in attendance, but actually a speaker at the US Drinks Conference in London. I'm assured my downbeat, Eeyore-like sermon on the state the US is currently in went down a storm.

Evenso, there can be no denying that the US, a market, lest we forget, that accounted for 3.2bn nine-litre equivalent cases last year, with sales of around US$189bn, is still a pretty important one to the drinks trade.

Asking around the conference, here is a smattering of the answers I got to questions about the effect of the tumultuous economic events over the last few weeks in the country.

 

“We're definitely starting to see an impact on the drinks industry when it comes to consumers' purchasing habits. They're starting to trend down, and lean more towards in-home consumption.”

“The good news is that there's always been a bit of a recession-proof to our business.”

“The one model I've seen discussed is the 2002 2,000-point slide in the Stock Market after 9/11. Lay-offs and unemployment weren't affected until six months after that, leading to a recession that ran for another year-and-a-half.”

“If you look at that 2,000-point drop period, the numbers for the drinks industry were still positive throughout that time. The numbers we're seeing for beer, wine and spirits were also positive as of four weeks ago. It's a little too early to tell what effect the major economic hit has had.”

“The enormity of this hasn't been felt yet. I think the rapidly-approaching holiday season will tell us a lot about the consumer's reaction to all of this. If the retail business is down sharply in November and December, then we're in trouble, and it's going to take while to rebound.”

“I wouldn't say that I was scared or confident about the holiday season, more that I'm cautiously optimistic.”

“I think the crunch is going to be felt at the small retailer and small wholesaler ends. I worry that they may struggle to get the credit to buy the inventory they need for the holidays.”

“We're in unchartered territories, but we've been in unchartered territories before. We fared well the last time, and I'm cautiously optimistic this time round.”

 

So, who else out there is excited about Christmas now?


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