HOW’S BUSINESS? Against the market we are doing relatively well. It has been a tough year and like most other industries trading is going through a difficult time at the moment but we are performing relatively well and maintaining our market share.
ANY EXCITING PROJECTS IN THE PIPELINE?
We have a strong portfolio as it is but in the near future we may be acquiring a few new agency lines — however I cannot divulge any information on what they are currently! We have also recruited a new sales person for Dublin city centre, which is an exciting step for the company and will help in building momentum in the Republic’s marketplace where we already have considerable traction.
WHAT ARE THE LONG-TERM PROSPECTS FOR YOUR COMPANY?
Following our acquisition by Heineken there will be many new opportunities arising, however it is too early to discuss exactly what this will entail. There may also be new developments with Scottish & Newcastle company-owned brands at some stage in the future, but again it’s too early to speculate any further on this.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FACING YOUR ORGANISATION?
Like every industry the credit crunch we are currently experiencing is a big challenge and will undoubtedly have an affect on the hospitality sector. However, as more people
change from going out to drinking at home, we are in the fortunate position of being able to service both these occasions through the on and off trade, so I’m confident we will continue to perform at a high level irregardless of the ‘crunch’. The substantial increase in duty rates, which has resulted in pushing retail prices to an all-time high, is also a major challenge to United Wine Merchants and the industry as a whole.
COULD THE GOVERNMENT HELP YOU TO DO BUSINESS BETTER?
Of course it could. Reducing the duty rates would enable us to give our customers and consumers a better offering. When compared to other EU countries our duty rates are substantially higher, which automatically puts us at a disadvantage and leaves us vulnerable to foreign imports. I believe the Government needs to work more closely with the industry to address this situation.
WHY WOULD SOMEONE WORK FOR YOU?
United Wine Merchants is a youthful and dynamic company which is continually evolving along with the industry. Having worked from the ground up myself, over the past 33 years that I’ve been involved in the sector, I have gained a good understanding of all departments which I believe makes me very approachable. United Wine Merchants has been very successful over the last 25 years and with our new parent company, Heineken, coming on board I envisage great opportunities moving forward.
YOUR VIEWS ON THE ECONOMY, PLEASE
Well I think everyone is aware of the current difficulties that the economy is experiencing and many companies are going to have to “ride the waves” over the next 18 months or so. Thankfully we are part of a global organisation and that puts us in a strong position and will enable us to keep costs under control, which will be a priority for us.
THE BUSINESS CLIMATE — GOOD OR BAD?
As I said, the business climate appears challenging, however there is still considerable optimism within the Northern Ireland market and we are in an excellent position to maintain and build upon our market share. I’m also confident that the sector as a whole will recover too.
WHAT AMBITIONS DO YOU HAVE ON A PERSONAL LEVEL?
I enjoy golf and had hoped to get down to a single figure handicap but since taking on the role of managing director I realise that may be a bit difficult! Having taken over this position from one of the most successful businessmen I know, I want to follow on from Jim O’Neill’s success and build on the strengths of the company.
WHAT DO YOU GET UP TO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
I enjoy golf and tennis. I also love spending time with my family and looking after my grand-daughter.