The Impact of COVID-19 on the English and Welsh Wine Industry - Student Final Year Project

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The Impact of COVID-19 on the English and Welsh Wine Industry - Student Final Year Project

Lucy Sawyer, BA International Wine Business (Hons, 1st Class) 
Major Project: The Impact of COVID-19 on the English and Welsh Wine Industry

Abstract 
The COVID-19 pandemic is undoubtedly one of the largest and most significant events in recent history. It will take many years for its full effect to be realised.

The way consumers spent during the pandemic and lockdowns changed the way sales of English and Welsh wines (EWW) were sold and the subsequent distribution. Vineyard visitor numbers were affected, and forced periods of closures in the on-trade, also reducing sales. Producers had to adapt quickly to aid consumers enabling them to purchase and receive their wines. English and Welsh wines were largely purchased from the supermarket, independent retailers, on the producers’ websites and at the cellar door during this period. Exports of wines produced in the UK were also significantly affected.

By collating primary research from interviews and anonymous surveys, and secondary research in literature reviews, this paper investigated the effects of this major event on the emerging British wine industry. It also described ways in which producers adapted for their businesses to survive. This study identified the potential opportunities that arose during the pandemic and potential future threats to the industry.

Major Conclusions
Given producers initial concerns regarding revenue at the start of the pandemic, many can be fairly positive about the impact of COVID-19 on the industry in 2020. There has been enormous growth in online sales, with producers acting quickly to boost sales whilst achieving higher margins. Digital engagement was extremely successful overall in building awareness. Product involvement in EWW and virtual tastings looks set to continue beyond the pandemic. While there has been a large decline in on-trade sales, it is hoped that once restrictions are fully lifted that these will bounce back to pre-pandemic levels.

Although still a relatively small part of the EWW industry, it is essential (especially for the larger producers) that exports return to their previous level. Whilst awareness of EWW continued to grow in the UK during the pandemic, the more collaborative promotion will be needed to increase awareness overseas and grow the export market.

Looking at the evidence, the COVID-19 pandemic did not impact EWW producers as greatly as expected in the early stages. Many, especially the small and medium-sized producers, felt overall, it positively impacted their sales, and the awareness of their wines grew. With 80% of producers surveyed stating they had seen an increase in sales in 2020, it could have been worse. Also, as producers continue to adapt to the changes they may face, there are some very strong areas of opportunity for continued growth beyond the pandemic.

The limited literature on this subject has resulted in certain areas not being thoroughly assessed. Further study is needed on more detailed sales figures and visitor numbers when the information becomes available.

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