Eighty per cent of independents say they are facing long delays on wines shipped from the EU, and almost three quarters say they are experiencing the same problems with deep-sea shipments.
This year’s Wine Merchant reader survey paints a worrying picture of supply chain problems, which merchants believe are caused more by Brexit than they are by the Covid crisis.
A minority of respondents – just over a third – say they are confident the problems are being resolved.
More than 200 businesses took part in this year’s survey, 166 of which responded to the question about the supply chain.
Responses were encouraged both from merchants who organise their own shipping, as well as businesses which buy from importers.
When presented with the statement “we are facing long delays on shipments from the EU”, 37% of respondents said they agreed strongly and 42% said they agreed to some degree.
When we asked about deep-sea shipments, 35% agreed strongly that delays were an issue, with 38% agreeing to some degree.
When asked if Brexit is making it harder to source the wines they want, 31% agreed strongly and 34% to some degree. When asked if Covid was also a factor, 13% agreed strongly and 34% to some degree.
For many merchants, both Brexit and Covid have conspired to cause difficulties.
“Brexit is the gift that keeps on giving,” says Marc Hough of Cork of the North in Manchester, “and it is very much an unwanted gift – like a badly-made toy with toxic parts.
“We have had to fundamentally change the way we do business. We have now had to pause importing wines on our own because of the current pandemonium with the constantly-changing rules.”
David Perry of Shaftesbury Wines in Dorset adds: “Brexit is an unmitigated disaster. Suppliers’ responses to Brexit delays, by buying in larger amounts earlier, overwhelmed warehousing capacity – especially at LCB.
“The loss of staff due to Brexit – and Amazon – made this even worse. That bottleneck was eased as retailers stockpiled. But the cause of the issue is still with us and likely to get worse as Brexit stage two bites. Covid didn’t help.”
Euan McNicoll, of McNicoll & Cairnie in Broughty Ferry, says: “The delays we have suffered, or the non-availability of some products, were down to Brexit.
“Covid made things worse, but let’s not use that as an excuse; Brexit is the main culprit. Some small-scale specialists aren’t exporting to the UK any longer, and the effect of that is to reduce choice.”
Chris Connolly, of Connolly’s in Birmingham, adds: “It’s hard to see how supply chain problems might be resolved when we have a government intent on pursuing a hard Brexit, enforcing new importation conditions and failing to provide importers and HMRC with the appropriate tools and information to deal with those regulations.”
Yet the appetite for direct imports does not appear to be dented, with fewer than 6% of respondents saying they plan to scale down this element of their business.
• Read more reaction from indies in the February edition of The Wine Merchant.