As we all come to terms with what impact Covid-19 is going to have on our personal lives as much as our work and business, we can only learn from those who are already having to live directly with the outbreak of this virus. Like Reka Haros and her husband, Pier, and young children, who have been cut off from normal life at their Italian winery, Sfriso, in Veneto in northern Italy. Here she shares what life really is like when you have to go into lockdown.
Reka Haros has been sharing her story in lockdown at her Sfriso Winery in Veneto, Italy on social media (@rekaharos). Here she goes into more detail about the impact it is having on their lives and business.
(You can hear Reka and Pier share their stories at 2pm today GMT time in a session suitably titled “How to react positively when shit hits the fan” as part of the Portugal Wine Week organised by André Ribeirhino that is live streaming interviews with producers and sharing advice throughout this week)
Thanks for reaching out! I really appreciate it! The situation is complex, very complex. There are zero certainties at the moment. As in, we don’t even know when our daughters can go back to school, let alone when we will be able to stand up and work again. The government changed the regulations so many times that it has become impossible to plan ahead. As a strategic marketer, all I have been trying to do is to shift our strategy but with changing conditions, this has become impossible to do.
Our wines for the US are still sitting here. Hillebrand says they are waiting for instructions from France – because the container leaves from there. Our packs for Hungary are here, as Slovenia and Austria have closed the borders and only perishable goods can go across. Wine isn’t perishable. Same for Denmark, and we’re now trying to dig deeper into the Netherlands.
It seems like we can send wine from our warehouse in Holland, but will know more later from DPD. The problem is that we are running out of wines in Holland and we can’t send pallets from here. It’s a catch22.
It’s hard to get precise information as to what is going on in terms of logistics in Europe because each country is now changing and adapting according to their governments’ decisions around Covid-19. Germany, placed in the middle of Europe, closed its borders over the weekend. But we don’t know exactly what that means. Is it only for people? Is transportation of goods included? We don’t know.
Wine delivery within the country is possible and that is good for those businesses that work with Italian customers, which we don’t because we are too expensive.
All this move into digital is great and will be a great push towards more digital adaptation, but the truth is it will work only for those who have already built their brands on and offline around strong personal connections.
There is also no indication or help offered by any wine authorities. We have received zero emails regarding the situation and how to navigate it. The government is just now rolling out some financial measures to help the population, but so far none of these will be for small winemakers.
Regarding practical issues hitting us, it can be summarised into: there is zero business happening. There are zero sales, zero tastings, zero visits, zero movements in and out.
While this has a very worrying impact financially, we also recognise that we are in a privileged situation because we live where we live, surrounded by space and nature, so we can actually get out of the house safely without meeting people. We also don’t have to pay rent while not having any income.
We are also able to sit still and cut back on expenses to balance out the lack of income. Many can’t do this and are in deeper financial shit than we are. I foresee a huge societal change just as many companies will go under because they don’t have the “survival of the fittest” drive in them.
We are still in the middle of the process as we have at least until March 25 in total lockdown (this may change), and until April 3 for schools to begin again (this may also change). And even if Italy lifts lockdown, the other European counties will still be in it for many more weeks. So no planning until then. We believe the entire summer season is lost, as well.
Pier and I are creative people and don’t expect the government to help us, but the majority of the farmers are truly lost at the moment. For now, while we wait for better conditions, all we can do is to show a more human face and build our small brand around entertainment and fun, which has always been our forte. And then when we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, we will try to push sales as much as possible.
I hope all is well on your side, and please stay in as much as you guys can!