The Buyer
Why it’s great the London Wine Fair is back for business

Why it’s great the London Wine Fair is back for business

The London Wine Fair is back! After a three year forced absence the London Wine Fair team can finally re-open the doors to London Olympia and welcome the UK and international wine industry once again. Here Richard Siddle explains why it is so important for the UK drinks industry as a whole that we have a healthy and thriving trade fair that can provide the platform for us all to get back to doing business together face to face. Whether you are an exhibitor or a visitor let’s look forward to a great show.

Richard Siddle
7th June 2022by Richard Siddle
posted in Opinion,

The London Wine Fair takes place between June 7-9 at London’s Olympia. For more details and to register click here.

The first time I reported on the London Wine Fair I did so without actually going to the show. Which is quite an achievement.

It was a few weeks after becoming editor of Harpers and with a press day to get through, in the middle of the fair, there was simply no time to attend. So all the interviews were done on the phone and I had to imagine just how “wonderful” “dynamic” and “exciting” it was for the various producers and suppliers to be there – none of whom I had ever actually met.

I wasn’t going to make that mistake again so the next year decided – rather innocently – to not just produce the magazine from the show, but to do a daily version for each of the three days. I’ve got the scars to prove it. And so too have all the other great members of the Harpers’ team who were willing to go where no wine and spirits magazine had gone before. [Thanks chiefs…!]

It was (I think) great fun, as well as bloody hard work. It meant you simply did not take ‘no’ for an answer. If a wine producer or distributor wanted to be in the next morning’s ‘Daily’ then even a Tesco buyer would have to wait their turn.

This is the first time the London Wine Fair has been able to open its doors since May 2019

But such tales of derring do hopefully reflect just how important the London Wine Fair is for the industry it serves, from the importers, merchants and producers who exhibit, to the buyers who go looking to do business and the journalists that report on it.

It’s the glue that brings everyone together. We all, therefore, have a vested interest in its fortunes. It’s like the BBC. We all have our own opinion, or two, about it. Good, or, bad.

Ups and downs…

It’s fair to say the London Wine Fair has had its share of ups and downs along the way. But then so has the wine industry it supports. Long gone has the “International’ tag in its title and its move back to Olympia in 2014 from far away ExCel was done, to ensure its long term future in a more manageable central London home.

Thankfully its owners – exhibition organisers the Hemming Group – have stuck with the show even when so many in the trade turned their backs on it. Preferring to run their own portfolio, or generic tastings instead. The assumption being the London Wine Fair, like our other great trade institutions – the WSTA, WSET etc – will always be there whether I turn up or not. When, in fact, it is run by an independent exhibitions business that is organising events across multiple sectors and questioning the commercial viability of each one.

That’s why we should all be raising a tasting glass to the Hemming Group, and London Wine Fair, ahead of its show in June and the fact it has been able to adapt, change and come back ready to put on its first live show in three years.

It might sound strange to say so, but it is arguably in a stronger position because of lockdown. Its switch to running successful digital shows in 2020 and 2021 helped so many of the trade re-connect with the show and truly appreciate its worth and how much we would miss if it was not here.

It also demonstrated just how important independent trade fairs are for bringing producers and buyers together and, if done well, help provide a platform, be it in person, or online, for them to do business.

Hannah Tovey’s has worked tirelessly to make London Wine Fair a success and re-invent it in the eyes of its exhibitors and visitors

The fact the London Wine Fair was able to drive its share of that business during 2020 and 2021 when it was not possible to hold an in person event shows how in tune its team, headed up by the dynamic Hannah Tovey, are in knowing what the trade needs and wants from a trade show.

The London Wine Fair is not all about doing business. It is about tasting, listening. learning and taking part in the full programme of masterclasses, seminars and debates.

Which is where I have to flag up my own involvement in helping to set up the Discovery Zone and hopefully offer challenging content that goes outside the wine industry for inspiration and look at the wider consumer trends and changes in technology and behaviour that we all need to be aware of.

There are now so many more trade shows, events and tastings, of all shapes and sizes, than when the London Wine Fair first opened its doors in 1981. The show has had to respond in kind and it will be noticeable, when it opens its doors in June, just how much of the show’s personality and energy now comes from the smaller stands in the Esoterica and Wines Unearthed sections, where smaller importers, merchants and producers looking for UK listings, are able to take part.

That very much reflects how much more diverse the UK wine market now is. It is no longer dominated by a handful of major distributors, but is now home to a wide number of players that are finding ever more niche ways to buy, import and sell wines to different channels, increasingly online and direct to consumer. The fact they are welcome and able to be part of the London Wine Fair makes the show what it now is. A true hot bed of the best importers, merchants and producers looking to find the right buyers for their wines.

That’s what the London Wine Fair should be about. The place to do business. I look forward to seeing you there between June 7-9.

Highlights of Discovery Zone sessions

The Buyer’s Richard Siddle is hosting a series of debates in the Discovery Zone on June 8. So please come and take part.

11am-11.50amThe rise in on demand grocery delivery apps (Gorillas etc) and what impact will they have on wine. Hear from those at the front end of delivering wine to your door in 10 minutes and what huge opportunities there are for brand owners, wine producers, importers and retailers. Charlotte Macken: GorillasAnts Rixon: Enotria&CoeDan Whine: Petersham Cellar; ex ZappBlake Gladman: KAM

1pm-1.50pm
How to build long standing loyalty for your brand and how do you develop an engaged online community. How do you attract, keep, entertain and give your target customer what they want and grow your brand as a result. Whether you are a product, retailer or restaurant you have to find ways to build your brand.

Alex Ririe: The CollaboratorsZara Irving: YesMoreElisha Rai: Folc WineTim Wildman MW: Lost Vineyard Preservation SocietyGreg Lambrecht: Coravin2.30pm-3.20pm
How do businesses build on the success of e-commerce during the pandemic by retaining and growing their customer base and how do you run an effective, profitable online wine/ drinks website. Erin Smith: SlurpRichard Weaver: Enotria&CoeTom Harvey: YesMoreSimon Huntington: Vintegrate Marketing