A great British tipple: UK winery expands service during coronavirus crisis
A South Staffordshire-based wine producer and retailer has been able to expand its production and has diversified its operations during the coronavirus shutdown, after securing support from Lloyds Bank.
The Halfpenny Green Wine Estate faced difficulties on both the agricultural and retail sides of its business due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Alongside adjusting to the forced closure of its on-site restaurant and tearoom, the business needed to respond to a surge in demand for its award-winning wines.
The business, which produces around 60,000 bottles of its own-label wine each year, also carries out contract winemaking and bottling for more than 50 vineyards across England and Wales.
To meet its obligations, owner Clive Vickers quickly realised that he would need to buy more bottles in order to get wine currently held in tanks from last year’s harvest into bottles. Clive contacted Lloyds Bank for support and secured a £180,000 funding package that included a capital loan repayment holiday for the next six months. This has enabled the company to maintain wine production and on-site bottling operations and manage an uplift in demand from customers for its award-winning wines, whilst also being able to meet its own operational overheads and staff costs.
While the business has had to furlough 45 of its 60 employees, who normally help to run its shop, restaurant and café, Clive has diversified the business’ retail operations to help counter some of the challenges posed by the lockdown.
Customers can book 20-minute individual personalised shopping experience with a member of staff to help with their wine selection – all while maintaining appropriate social distancing. With current high levels of demand, customers can also place orders via social media for collection.
The business has also launched a home-made food and wine delivery service for local residents and click & collect.
The Halfpenny Green Wine Estate farms almost 30 acres of south-facing vineyards near Bobbington in South Staffordshire. The wine is sold in the business’ on-site shop and is also stocked in other farm shops and delis across the region.
Clive Vickers, director and owner of the Halfpenny Green Wine Estate said: “In spite of the chaos that COVID-19 has brought to our business, we’ve seen a surge in demand for our wine. Above all, we still needed to maintain the agricultural side of our business, while adapting our retail arm to make the best of this unprecedented situation.
“We’re just a small rural business, but Lloyds Bank stepped in straight away to help us out. Without this funding, we simply wouldn’t have enough cash to buy in the volume of wine bottles we need to keep up with orders.
“We’re working flat out to make sure all our customers are looked after and our employees have jobs to return to at the end of the pandemic, so we’re very grateful for the speed and professionalism of the team at Lloyds Bank.”
Di Preece, relationship manager for Lloyds Bank said: “Halfpenny Green Wine Estate is one of largest vineyards in the UK and has a legion of loyal customers that enjoy its award-winning wines. The business needed to respond and adapt quickly to the COVID-19 outbreak, in order to ensure that its key wine production services remained operational and to help offset the temporary closure of the restaurant and tearoom.
“We’re committed to supporting land-based businesses and are working by their side to help them tackle the effects of COVID-19 by providing quick access to funding and capital repayment holiday options.”