Thank you for your time, Matt! Can we start with an open introduction to Hennings Wine?
We’re a team of wine lovers who are driven by customer service and have fortuitously stumbled into each other! The business was founded in 1960 and control has passed, father to son, since then.
In the early days, we used to be more of a delicatessen with a splattering of wine. However, it became evident that we had hit the perfect spot with wine, ultimately becoming the cornerstone of our business.
We consider ourselves incredibly lucky to be located in the heart of The South Downs, but it's rewarding that we've been able to share our products nationally over the past couple of decades.
Can you share any key milestones or achievements that Hennings Wine have reached recently?
As we reach the midpoint of our seventh decade in business, it’s fair to say that migrating our systems to Venditan has been a substantial undertaking and accomplishment.
We have also recently gained approval from HMRC to store duty-suspended stock. This achievement is a significant pat on the back for our team and the level of diligence with which we operate as a business.
Now, for the wine! Are you currently excited about a particular country, region or winery?
On a personal note, it would have to be Domaine des Tourelles in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. I was incredibly lucky to be able to visit there last June and see first-hand the incredible work that Faouzi and his team are doing in their beautiful country. They’re doing great things with Cinsault as well as some pretty ancient indigenous whites like Merweh and Obeidi. They’re all so refined and expressive.
I have a huge amount of respect for Faouzi and his team; they persevere despite the challenges and, through extraordinary new plantings high in the hills behind the winery, continue to invest and believe in the future of their country.
How is the wine industry faring and what are your expectations for the next few years?
Overall the industry is pretty stable; wine has always been part of the highs and lows of life so it will always find a way!
Over the last couple of years we’ve had short-term supply chain challenges with dry goods like cardboard and glass, but these have now eased which is a massive relief.
The main challenges that the industry now faces are changes in duty taxation, attracting younger drinkers and, most importantly, climate change. You’ll see more wines at lower alcohol levels to limit the tax but there’s only so much winemakers can do to negate this.
I think consumers would be surprised how much climate change is affecting many of the traditional wine-growing regions. Wineries are having to pivot towards new grape varieties and growing methods, while control boards are having to relax regulations around things like irrigation.
Warmer weather also means more alcohol so more tax. As a result, I think we’ll start embracing more climate-resistant grape varieties. Anyone for Souvignier Gris? We’ve got a fantastic rosé of this variety arriving in time for summer!
On a lighter note, can you share a fun or interesting fact about the company that people may not know?
I know Venditan has some long-term employees, but can you compete with Mike, who has dedicated 35 years to our Goods In department? Or with Steve, who has been part of Goods Out for 20 years?
Quite a few of us in the office and shops are approaching our mid-teen anniversaries, too. I’d put our staff retention down to either our customers, the working environment, or staff discount…
What steps do you take to ensure your customers a positive online shopping experience?
Speed and flow through the order fulfilment process are so important, but communication is key. Information must be kept up to date and if there’s an issue with an order, we won’t bury our head in the sand and hope it goes away.
On the rare occasion that something is wrong with an order–perhaps a vintage has changed or there’s a breakage in transit–we’ll always let our customers know.
Proactivity regarding order communication is key if you want there to be any form of customer loyalty and retention. There have been so many occasions when I’ve ordered something online that hasn’t arrived in the specified timeframe yet I’ve had to do the chasing. This is a big red flag to me and ensures I won’t be returning in the future.
Could you share some insight into our relationship? What specific challenges have we helped you overcome?
Unifying our systems was a very large jump for us but using multiple pieces of technology meant that our processes and stock visibility weren’t beneficial to our goals.
The SaaS nature of Venditan Commerce gives obvious benefits over a traditional system concerning accessibility, but by merging all of our systems into one, we now have simultaneous visibility and availability of stock across all parts of our business - in-store, online and warehouse.
The migration has resulted in substantial efficiencies in both internal and external replenishment, thanks to automation and enhanced forecasting visibility. While there are notable headline benefits to the system, we have also made numerous marginal gains, allowing our team more time to focus on customers and less time fighting the system!
What advice would you give to individuals or businesses looking to start an eCommerce venture?
Don't spread yourself too thin; focus on one thing and excel in it. Specialisation allows you to carve a niche, build expertise, and stand out in the market.
Streamline your suppliers as much as possible. Building strong and efficient relationships with a select few suppliers can lead to better pricing, reliability, and overall smoother operations.
The speed and reliability of delivery are critical. Invest in a robust logistics strategy to ensure timely and dependable delivery, as this significantly impacts customer satisfaction and loyalty.
And above all else, as we discussed earlier, communicate any issues to your customers as soon as possible. Transparency builds trust, and customers appreciate being informed. Additionally, always offer a proactive solution to any challenges that may arise. This approach helps in maintaining a positive customer experience even in challenging situations.