Talking to Erica Parisi earlier this month was the interview equivalent of a ray of sunshine appearing from behind a dark cloud, as she shared both the thrill and anticipation of starting her new role as senior account manager at Armit Wines, but also the passion and genuine enthusiasm she has working in the wine industry. Richard Siddle tries to capture just some of her infectious excitement.
Erica Parisi will be known to many in the UK wine industry for her years working at the London Wine Fair and Enotria&Coe before the opportunity came to join Armit Wines.
When we go for a job interview we can be pretty much guaranteed to be asked certain questions, the most obvious being – why is it you want to work for the particular company in question?
If Erica Parisi gave an answer anywhere near as positive as the response she gave to The Buyer as to why she wanted to work for Armit Wines, then it’s easy to see why she ended up being offered the job.
Even via Zoom her enthusiasm for her new role as senior account manager shines through: “This is a fresh start for me, and I am grateful I have found this new job. Things have just been so good since I joined,” she says.
Now admittedly she has only been in her role working with Armit’s key accounts since the start of the year, but already in that time she is confident she has found the right job, at the right time.
“Even in my Enotria days I would go to to Armit’s Italian portfolio tasting,” she says. “I really have for a long time been a true lover of the wines they, or I should say we, have in the portfolio. It’s very important when you are selling a wine that you really believe in it, and that’s the feeling I have with Armit’s wines.”
Her new job also comes on the back of a frustrating 2020 when, like so many in the UK drinks industry, she was initially placed on furlough, from her previous role as London on-trade account manger at Entotria & Coe, before being made redundant last November.
A fresh start
Not only has she been given a fresh start, and a new opportunity she is also excited about the potential her new role gives us her to have a bigger voice and role to play.
She says she enjoyed her time at Enotria immensely, particularly its scale and the opportunity to work with a wide portfolio ranging from entry level to fine wines, spirits and soft drinks, which allowed her to work with a wider range of customers and increased her skills beyond wine.
“With Armit Wines I feel I am, by comparison, working with a more of a boutique supplier where the focus is only on wine, which is where my love and passion is. There is also a real opportunity to help grow the overall business which is very attractive.”
It is that 100% wine focus that first attracted her to come to London over a decade ago from her home in Italy, and the chance to be in a city where there is arguably the biggest choice and access to wine than anywhere else in the world.
A world of wine she was first able to enjoy during her time with the London Wine Fair where she was ideally placed to see first hand the vast range of companies, suppliers, importers, distributors, merchants and how similar, but also different they are to each other. “I am so grateful to the London Wine Fair for the opportunity it gave me,” she adds.
Working with customers
It has not been the ideal time for Parisi to join Armit Wines with the on-trade, and so many of her potential customers closed. But it’s also been a good time, she says, to introduce herself and get to know them more, as well as fully understand all the wines in Armit’s portfolio.
She has particularly enjoyed the chance to work on Armit’s Italian en primeur campaign and present many of those wines to both its trade and private customers including what has been acclaimed as one of the best vintages ever for the 2018 Sassicaia. “I think it has worked really well with so many highly sought after wines,” she says.
Parisi has joined Armit at just the right time to work both on the steps the business is taking to help the on-trade return next month, but also assess what help and support it can provide its customers as they look to re-open.
She has jumped at the chance to work hand in hand with some of London’s most prestigious operators, including The Birley Clubs, owners of the exclusive private club Annabel’s, The Connaught, and landmark retail accounts such as Selfridges and Harrods.
As an Italian she is also very excited to have the opportunity to work with Armit’s world renown Italian wine portfolio, featuring many of the country’s most prestigious and iconic wineries, including Sassicaia.
“There is still very much the opportunity to build the Italian range, even though that is one of the areas that Armit is most famous for,” she explains.
This is where she hopes to build on her knowledge as an account manager, combined with her experience of being an Italian living and working in London for the last 10 years. She says she has also been given the green light to add to and help improve and build the Italian range as she gets to know her customers better and understand more about what they are looking for.
“We have ambitious plans for growth and I hope to be able to play my part in that in the future,” she adds – particularly in London.
Clearly a lot of that growth will depend on how quickly the on-trade is able to recover and whether we can stick to the government’s gradual re-opening of the on-trade from mid April, to the potential full re-launch on June 21.
“It’s a big help having more certainty about what is happening,” says Parisi, but it will still “depend on what restrictions will be in place”. “Will workers be able to go back to the City again? That is so so important for London’s restaurant trade,” she adds.
The challenge for a supplier like Armit Wines, says Parisi, is to make sure it is able to “listen, adapt and be flexible” to the needs of its customers.
Preparing for re-launch
Much of that re-building and re-opening work with key accounts has been going on for some time, adds Parisi. Never has it been so important to ensure you are on top of all your relationships with key customers as there is bound to be a consolidation of suppliers once the on-trade does re-open with operators sticking and working more with those distributor partners they believe offer them the most invaluable services.
“You have to be working now to maximise those relationships and doing what you can to help them prepare to re-open,” she says, be it showing them new wines or helping to reshape wine lists.
Parisi says Armit is already seeing more demand for every-day wines between £9 to £25 wholesale that customers can really get behind. That’s where it’s important to have the knowledge to know where, for example, they can go in Italy for those kinds of wines. It is also an opportunity for Armit to work even more with its existing producers to source a wider range of wines from them, she says.
But she is also excited to suggest and bring new wines into the portfolio, and is particularly thrilled by Italian red varieties like Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, and how it differs between subzones, as well as looking at a wider range from Sicily, and classics such as Valpolicella.
Parisi also appreciates she has to temper her enthusiasm to introduce too many new ideas as many customers are also understandably cautious about how quickly sales will return when they do re-open, with the initial restrictions, and that they are more likely to take a “conservative approach for the next six months or so”.
“It will be better for both suppliers and producers to assess the market conditions as well,” she says.
The hope, though, heading towards 2022 is that much of the ground work done this year can really come into fruition then. “It is important to be still having those conversations now,” she adds.
Part of the Armit team
Up to now Parisi has had to meet and work with the rest of the Armit team via Zoom and Team meetings and is looking forward to returning to the office – at Armit’s new headquarters in Hammersmith, west London.
Her day to day role is being part of Armit’s vital London accounts team, and developing its London on-trade business and looking for new customers where they can. She also knows a number of Armit’s existing customer base from her previous role,
“We are constantly talking to and listening to our customers about what they need, which is different for every one. It is frustrating and exciting at the same time not being able to go and see them, but we are able to achieve a lot over Zoom. The technology in lockdown has been so useful. It’s good to see so many of our customers looking and wanting to change their wine lists.”
Part of Armit’s support to help its customers was a recent Italian wine sampling campaign that allowed operators to pick from up to 80 wines and then receive tasting packs of 50mls of each of the wines selected. It is also a new innovative way for Armit to introduce wines that would normally be shown at its annual traditional Italian tasting.
“The selection represented around two thirds of the Armit range, including new vintages, and the response we had was fantastic, with over 100 customers taking part. It’s a great way to re-introduce dynamic producers to our restaurant partners and will definitely generate sales,” says Parisi. “It’s been a big investment for us to do, but shows the trade how committed we are to help them come back.”
Parisi says she was also keen to work for Armit Wines because of managing director, Brett Fleming, and all the steps he has taken “to give it such a solid future” by diversifying into other channels and not to be too over-reliant on the on-trade.
- Armit Wines is one of The Buyer’s partner businesses.