In the week that the coronavirus COVID-19 took hold in the UK, the head of the country’s Wine & Spirit Trade Association has told just-drinks that drinks companies should focus their efforts on direct sales to consumers.

In an exclusive interview, WSTA chief executive Miles Beale admitted the crisis will have a long-term effect on the UK on-premise channel. With the UK Government advising the public on Monday to avoid pubs and bars in the country, Beale forecast that the on-premise would not look “the same on the other side of coronavirus as it did before”.

“They [on-premise operators] are on the front line not only of the coronavirus, but also the fear of coronavirus,” Beale told just-drinks. “When we’ve got politicians saying don’t go out to restaurants, bars or pubs, demand disappears literally overnight. That’s certainly what’s happened for a lot of our members.”

When asked what type of drinks businesses could emerge unscathed from COVID-19, Beale said: “I think no one wins. I literally mean no one wins, because I don’t see any company coming out of this up.

“There are clearly some businesses that are better-developed than others in some areas,” he continued. “Any company that is able to offer direct-to-consumer sales is definitely going to be in demand. When we, God willing, come out of the other side of coronavirus, these companies are probably going to be in a good place to keep some customers that they probably gained in the short term.

“Business models are adapting and some will survive better.”

The WSTA has spent the last three-and-a-half years focusing its attention on the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. “Challenges like Brexit were requiring some change anyway,” Beale told just-drinks. “But, this is a whole different ball of wax.”

To read just-drinks’ exclusive interview with Miles Beale, click here.

Coronavirus COVID-19 and the global drinks industry – just-drinks timeline