If there is one business lesson anyone wanting to forge a long term career in the wine industry needs to learn is don’t burn your bridges when you move on from a particular role. It’s an adage Miles Platt can certainly attest to having twice worked for Bibendum in his career, and now Jascots Wine Merchants having recently returned to lead the business as part of his wider role as head of on-trade for its parent business, Freixenet Copestick. He explains to Richard Siddle why he is delighted to be back heading up a business with a clear goal of doubling Jascot’s current size of around £10m turnover to £20m in the coming years. To do that he wants Jascots to be the “easiest and most seamless” wine supplier to work with in the premium on and off-trade.
“We want to be seen as the easiest and most seamless business to work with,” says head of Jascots Miles Platt. “That gives us a competitive advantage.” Here he explains how.
It’s fair to say when Miles Platt was forced to leave Jascots Wine Merchants when it went into administration at the height of the second Covid lockdown in November 2020 he would not have envisaged, in his wildest dreams, being back there three years later as not only head of a new, revived business, but playing a crucial role in the wider multi-million pound brand and agency business, Freixenet Copestick.
It’s a position he is clearly relishing. A chance to stamp his mark and make the most of still many untapped opportunities for Jascots Wine Merchants, but how he can also help manage and shape the overall on-trade strategy of Freixenet Copestick.
But he is also quick to soften expectations by saying any growth has to be achieved in what is still a very difficult overall on-trade market where pressure on costs, sales and margins has already resulted in a number of high profile restaurant closures this year and the constant week-by-week news of losses across the hospitality sector.
If anything the responsibility and pressure on on-trade suppliers to deliver and meet the needs of their customers has never been greater, says Platt.
Restaurants, bars and pubs need their suppliers to be at the top of their game, providing solutions and finding ever more creative ways to help and support them, he stresses. Any success an on-trade supplier now has is even harder earned.
Platt, though, is used to working in challenging, fast moving and also highly pressured organisations. He headed up corporate sales at Bibendum for close to 10 years up to 2016 and the collapse of Conviviality, before joining Majestic to lead its commercial division during Rowan Gormley’s first stint in charge and then head of sales at Jascots in the two years going into Covid.
He says he owes a great deal to both the senior management teams at Bibendum and Majestic and the opportunities and experiences he gained there.
“In the nine years I was at Bibendum I went from a company with 60 people to 280 when I left. I have so much respect for the teams I worked with there,” he says.
Jascots, by comparison, is a very different beast to Bibendum, says Platt. The turnover, for example, on just the corporate side of Bibendum was close to £25m at the time – in the mid 2010s – whilst Jascots’ total turnover was just over half that.
What appealed to Platt about Jascots first time round is still very much the same second time round. A company firmly focused on sales, which is big enough to have its own clout in the market, but small enough to allow its team to build strong, close, effective relationships with their customers.
“It is a business set up to support its sales team. It had a great culture then and it has a great culture now,” he explains.
Much of which, he says, was built up by his predecessor and namesake Miles MacInnes, who was very much the face, heart and soul of the business up to his departure, to move to a new commercial opportunity outside of wine, last summer.
He says the business is still run very much in the fashion that MacInnes would want it to be. But admits it is now slightly less confusing to customers when he calls to say, “Hi, it’s Miles from Jascots.”
What’s more a good portion of the Jascots team is still the same from when he first worked there.
The one big difference about Jascots now is it too is part of a much bigger beast – Freixenet Copestick. The multi-faceted business with its own major brands – I Heart Wine, Freixenet and Mionetto – with strong distribution across the multiple retail and convenience off-trade; its direct to consumer company, Slurp; premium English wine producer, Bolney Wine Estate; and Jascots representing its own brands as well as a growing number of producers from around the world – including Spier, Wakefield Wines, Wither Hills – which it manages on an agency basis.
Jascots also has access to the entire range of Bordeaux negociant, Yvon Mau, part of Freixenet Henkell, the parent company of Freixenet Copestick, the biggest sparking wine producing business in the world and access to premium brands such as Austria’s Schloss Johannisberg and Champagne Alfred Gratien.
All of which make it a wine supplier with a very different base to work from than the Jascots he was part of before Covid.
“It means we can be far more flexible,” says Platt. “We now have the reach and the support of the Freixenet Copestick group which gives us access to the bulk wine market and the volume part of wine as well as the backing of a bigger company.”
He adds: “Jascots is a really important part of its wider business and the opportunities it gives their wines and brands. We have their trust and respect and together we have some really big plans for the business. It’s all very exciting.”
Crucially the new revamped Jascots still runs all its own vans out of its London warehouse and depot. Ensuring it has total control over its deliveries and making sure its wines are with customers as and when they need them.
Which, sadly, is “not a given” in the world of wine distribution as it was, or should be, says Platt.
Easiest and seamless
Being known as a solid, reliable, consistent wine supplier is just as important as the choice of wines you can then deliver, says Platt. Jascots is proud of its ability to provide next day delivery, six days a week.
“We want to be seen as the easiest and most seamless business to work with,” he says. “That gives us a competitive advantage.”
He is particularly pleased to look back on what was one of the “smoothest” Christmas trading periods he can remember.
As well as sourcing and supplying its own Jascots wine range to customers, it also acts as Freixenet Copestick’s on-trade arm and, in particular, managing its two major brands I Heart Wine and Freixenet with big on-trade accounts and wholesalers, including Molson Coors and Mitchells & Butlers.
“We wear two different hats,” explains Platt, with the flexibility to supply some customers with Jascots wines, or FXC brands across their different fascias.
Whilst 80% of its business remains in London, Platt is open to any opportunities it can find across the South East down to Brighton, but also in the west and over to Bristol and Bath.
“But we would need to have a volume of customers there so that we can send a van and deliver efficiently for it to work,” he says. “There is, though, still a lot of head room for us in London and that is where our main focus will be.”
Another key difference about Jascots as an on-trade supplier, says Platt, is it only provides wine. It does not and is not interested in becoming a composite player and offering beers, spirits and soft drinks. “When you start to do other things, you have to compromise.”
Platt says there is no getting away from the fact the on-trade and overall hospitality sector is going through a difficult, uncertain time. Whilst as a business it wants to do all it can to help and work with its customers through hard times, it also needs to be practical, as well as supportive.
“We try and communicate and talk to our customers as much as possible so that we can find solutions and we are not putting ourselves under any undue risk,” he stresses, but admits “credit is more of a live issue” now than it has been.
It also means Jascots needs to be offering its customers a wine range in keeping with the consumer demand they are seeing.
Platt says it is striking that even at the top end sales of fine wines are being pushed downwards, away from an average per bottle selling price of £120 to closer £70 now. “We have got to change our focus and emphasis on fine wine as a result,” he says.
That said he remains confident about the medium and long term future of the on-trade. “We still work in the most mature and exciting wine market in the world. Our job is to give our premium customers great access to amazing producers each with their own regional specificity.”
He adds: “They may not be the first or second name producers in a particular region, but they will be in the top six. The sort of interesting wines our customers want to buy. It means we are able to work with some fantastic people who offer some of the best wines typical of the place they come from.”
That’s always been the Jascots way, the opportunity now, says Platt, is to source the producers and agencies best suited to the market conditions we are all operating in.
Which is why Jascots is best placed to be one of a handful of suppliers a customers might work with. Yes, it could and does provide 100% supply to some outlets, he says its strength is offering interesting, exclusive wines you can’t find anywhere else.
Equally it can, through FXC, offer bigger customers, and major on-trade chains, the efficiencies of scale of working with its major power brands, or sourcing higher volumes of bulk wine to create bespoke own label and private label brands.
“Our ability to do that is much better and bigger now thanks to FXC,” he says. “We have got more solutions to offer customers.”
Which is why he believes Jascots has still got lots of untapped potential working with leading independent wine merchants. Be it for its own exclusive wines, or the premium range of its wine agency partners like Wakefield Wines, and then larger bespoke volumes if required.
Which is why he is happy to share its ultimate goal of doubling Jascot’s current size of around £10m turnover to £20m in the coming years. Particularly now that he feels FXC fully understands the ups, downs and ins and outs of running an on-trade wine supplier business for the first time.
He strongly believes it has the backing and the people to achieve that. “We have people with lots of experience of what we are trying to do.”
Some of whom, like Platt, have worked for and returned to Jascots on what could and should be the most exciting time in its history.
- You can find out more about Jascots Wine Merchants at its website here.
- You can meet the team, some of its key producers and taste its range of wines at its annual portfolio tasting on February 7 at Westminster Chapel, Buckingham Gate, London, SW1E 6BS between 10am and 6pm. The event will have 200 available to taste with a specific focus on its Regional Heroes – leading wineries in their respective regions, championing indigenous grape varieties and are the best examples of wines that are true to the place where they are made.
- To register for the tasting click here.