Interview: Rocco Lombardo Of Wilson Daniels On Responding To COVID-19
Fine wine importer and distributor Wilson Daniels had revenues of $162 million last year, including $85 million for its national import business, and $77 million for its wholesale operations across New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Oregon. Like others, the company has moved aggressively to respond to the havoc wrought by coronavirus across the market, adapting its operations to account for the new realities of doing business amid the outbreak. SND executive editor Daniel Marsteller spoke with Wilson Daniels president Rocco Lombardo for an update.
SND: What’s the state of the Wilson Daniels business currently as the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold?
Lombardo: On our import business, we’ve been fortunate to have a lot of stateside inventory. We were deeply concerned about a potential second round of tariffs going into effect in January on European wines, so we hedged our position ahead of that and brought in about nine months’ worth of inventory. Our wholesale and national businesses are both continuing to ship, and we’ve seen no disruption with regard to our capacity. But 57% of our business is done on-premise, and it’s been devastating for that segment. We’re all going to have to find ways to support those on-premise proprietors who’ve been hurt. Ordering takeout and delivery is one way to help.
SND: How much can off-premise increases ameliorate the on-premise shutdown?
Lombardo: The package stores and the grocery stores have definitely prospered over the last two weeks. But unfortunately, it’s been at the expense of what’s happening on-premise. So we’re seeing the off-premise business compensate somewhat, but given how the conditions have been so traumatizing to restaurants, it’s not going to be able to compensate fully. Our company is financially strong. We’re maintaining our workforce, and operations are continuing, but we’re concerned about the next 60-90 days, and the residual effects over at least the next couple of quarters.
SND: How quickly do you think the industry can rebound once the outbreak is brought under control?
Lombardo: It’s very difficult to forecast, and many of us in our position are going to be taking a look at financial modeling for the remainder of the year. I’m optimistic that the country is very resilient and can rebound quickly, but I’m concerned about unemployment, which could be as high as 15% or 20% according to some estimates. Hopefully we’re going to see a lot of the bridge loans and spending by the government go to small and mid-cap businesses, because small business is a major contributor to the economy. You also have to look on the brighter side of things. For me personally, it means spending a lot more time with my family, and being able to have dinner with them every night.