How Can The Italian Wine Industry React to COVID-19?

The situation surrounding the global pandemic is so fluid right now that it’s difficult to report on it.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve shared information about how the outbreak affected Italian wine sales. We’ve talked about how many premium producers find themselves struggling because people don’t want to spend a lot of money on wine. We’ve also talked about how producers who predominantly serve hospitality businesses are finding themselves out of pocket.

It’s a difficult time for everybody.

But at the time of writing, it looks like we may be past the worst of it. Many countries are announcing the easing or lockdown restrictions, with Italy being amongst them. We’re also seeing loosening of the guidelines in many major wine markets, including England and Spain. Of course, the US remains somewhat tumultuous but it appears that President Trump is pushing for easing of lockdown there as well.

The point is that we’re seemingly past the peak. And now, it’s time for the Italian wine industry to react in an effort to reclaim some of the sales that it lost over the last few months.

How can it do that?

We have a few suggestions that producers may want to keep in mind.

Appeal to the Home Buyer

As mentioned, people aren’t getting their fix of wine from restaurants and bars. This has affected a lot of producers that relied on these bulk buyers for most of their income. With people not able to go out, we’ve seen a decrease in purchases of certain types of wine.

But we’ve seen increases for others.

Even under lockdown conditions, grocery stores have needed to remain open. They are, after all, essential services. And what we’re seeing is an increasing number of people buying less expensive wines as part of their shopping trips.

Here’s the thing.

People still want to buy wine. Many still rely on it as a stress reliever, which is more important now than ever before given what’s going on in the world. As we come closer to the full easing of lockdown, producers should aim at focusing on this at-home consumer segment of the market to bump up their sales. Perhaps marketing towards this audience could be the key for those who are struggling. At the very least, it could fill a gap until the hospitality sector is back on its feet.

Work With Online Vendors

The traditional channels for selling wine may be closed to a lot of producers but that doesn’t meant that it’s impossible to sell wine. Of course, not every producer can get themselves into supermarkets and many specialist vendors are still closed due to being deemed non-essential.

The solution is to get online.

Of course, this may involve creating an online store on a producer’s website. It’s something that we’re seeing a lot of retailers do and it allows producers to sell their products directly to consumers. However, it also means that the producer needs to take care of the logistical end of delivering orders to customers.

Maybe that’s too much hard work (and a little too much of a cost) for many producers.

If that’s the case, the better option may be to strike up a relationship with an online vendor. At Xtrawine, we’ve seen steady sales of our huge range of Italian wines because we’re able to offer convenience to consumers. And because we already have our logistical infrastructure in place, the producers who work with us know that they can just ship their wines to us and we’ll handle the rest.

Perhaps it’s time for producers who haven’t fully embraced the online era to consider teaming up with a digital vendor or two to help them keep their sales coming.

Hold Online Events

Last week, we reported on National Prosecco Week in the United States. The event is still going ahead, even though it can’t be held physically. Instead, the event will consist of a host of online seminars and keynote speeches, as well as virtual wine tasting sessions.

That’s something that may see wider adoption across the industry, especially if the easing of lockdown doesn’t allow for mass gatherings for quite some time.

Producers should think about how they can leverage the web to keep their own brands in the public consciousness. 

Perhaps they could hold seminars of their own to keep putting information out to consumers. One of the big advantages of the web is that it’s available on a global scale. Any content that a producer shares, be it on its own website or through a partner, has the potential to reach an international audience.

You could even hold virtual tastings of your own to keep people involved. That’s something that we’re already seeing in Australia, which has one of the hardest-hit wine industries in the world. Producers are holding tasting sessions to create some buzz, get people involved, and build awareness of their brands.

Perhaps it’s time for Italian wine producers to follow suit.

Reassure Customers

It’s no secret that Italy was one of the countries that bore the early brunt of coronavirus. It still holds one of the highest infection counts in Europe, though the brilliant response from the Italians has led to its infection rate reducing massively.

Still, this knowledge may leave some consumers feeling wary. They may not feel confident in buying wines from such a high-infection country.

Producers should do all that they can to assuage these fears. Talk about the methods that you’re using to ensure safe production and distribution. Talk about how you’ve pivoted to protect your consumers. Make it clear that buying an Italian wine does not place a consumer at any more risk than buying anything else.

Direct confrontation of the fear that people have is the best way to relieve that fear and create a stronger industry.

The Final Word

There’s no denying that coronavirus has had a marked impact and will continue to have such for several months to go.

But with these suggestions, producers may be able to pivot and pull themselves through this situation.


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