In the 2021 National Liquor News Industry Leaders Forum, we caught up with David Pitt, CEO of McWilliam’s Wines Group, about his view for the future and the resilience of the business.
National Liquor News: How has McWilliam’s navigated the challenges of the year, and what is your outlook for 2021 from here?
David Pitt: We knew when we chose this path it was never going to be an easy one, however we remain committed despite some deviations along the way to give McWilliam’s the best chance of a sustainable future. The brand and the family deserve nothing short of that after 143+ years of proud contribution to our amazing liquor industry. As a company we have remained unrelenting in that pursuit which has allowed us to keep moving forward despite the hits we’ve had to take along the way.
I want to acknowledge the team that have stayed the course here and how they’ve kept showing up every day and kept moving forward despite the elephant in the room regarding the uncertainty surrounding our future. I am confident a lessor group would have collapsed a long time ago, however we have a very special group of people here who believe in what we are doing and they deserve to see success for their efforts. Strategically we know what we need to do, it is understood at all levels and across all functions and so we continue step by step on improving the overall business each day.
The outlook ahead for 2021 is positive. We remain optimistic of channels and markets reopening and being accessible to again make our wines available following the obvious impacts of COVID.
NLN: With the Prcstnt acquisition falling through, what does this mean for McWilliam’s into 2021?
DP: For the immediate term it is simply ‘business as unusual’ as we continue to make great wines for our customers and make them available for our consumers to enjoy. In parallel, we are supporting our administrators with the sale process which is well advanced, and we remain cautiously optimistic of a favourable outcome in the very near future.
NLN: What will be the major challenges and opportunities for McWilliam’s over the next 12 months?
DP: Under the assumption of a successful sale outcome our challenges are consistent with everyone else within the industry as we navigate a very different world in COVID times. Some things will obviously return to the way they were however not in all cases. We need to be agile in our approach and keep the consumer front of mind at all times which is driving the future innovation initiatives we are working hard on bringing to market.
NLN: Do you have any messages for the trade about supporting McWilliam’s at this time?
DP: Keep supporting us, keep supporting the McWilliam’s Wines Group. I am confident across our 143+ years the trade has benefitted from the consumer demand for our wines and that demand continues today and will continue tomorrow if we are supported during this transition phase of our ownership. I would also like to think the Australian wine industry is in a much healthier place with McWilliam’s Wines continuing to contribute to it rather than not, given the very proud company history.
We will always be known for the fortified wines we have famously produced since our inception, however I would encourage our customers to try our table wines if they haven’t before, as we will surprise you. From the Hunter Valley with our award-winning Mount Pleasant range, to our Tumbarumba cool climate MCW collections and of course our historical value ranges, where the quality continues to be superior to the price.
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