Business resilience in Ashford: Chapel Down GroupPosted on 12 June 2020
Like many businesses during the Covid-19 crisis, Chapel Down Group has had to adapt the way it operates. Despite some initial challenges the company has been able to increase its wine sales and play its role in supporting other businesses and individuals during this difficult time.
As England’s leading wine producer and a hospitality business, Chapel Down Group took a hit early on. In line with government advice, the team swiftly took the decision to close the shops, restaurants and bars at the winery in Tenterden and Curious Brewery in Ashford at the start of March.
This was soon followed by the closure of the bars, restaurants, pubs and hotels that the company supplies to, which provides a substantial income stream accounting for around a third of wine sales and 80% of beer sales. While this posed a challenge, Chapel Down acted immediately to find how it could operate in this new business landscape.
Mark Harvey, Managing Director of Wines and Spirits at Chapel Down Group explains how despite these initial challenges, they have managed to turn things around: “Thanks to an upsurge in online sales and an increased interest from national supermarkets and independent retailers, wine sales are up year on year. It’s great to see that this is more than offsetting the decline in trade sales.
“Understandably as people are unable to drink in restaurants and bars, they are opting to drink at home more, so the focus of our business has shifted accordingly. As a company we have upgraded our systems and processes to account for this increased demand. We’ve also been doing lots of online activity, for example weekly Instagram Live wine and beer tastings. These have proven very popular and have led to an immediate spike in sales. Affiliate marketing, free delivery and exclusive offers have also worked well for us in driving traffic to our website.
“We have also benefited from Ashford Borough Council providing a business rate rebate for our tourism businesses at the Brewery in Ashford and the Tenterden Vineyard and Winery.”
There’s a real sense of community spirit in Ashford at the moment – every business you speak to genuinely wants to help one another and collaborate.Mark Harvey, Managing Director of Wines and Spirits, Chapel Down Group
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Chapel Down has also been doing everything they can to support the local community. The company is working with fellow Kent businesses including Givaudan, Farm Drop, Woods Farms and Foodari and champions the strength of the borough’s business community.
“Matt, our Head Brewer, has been working very closely with Givaudan to produce hand sanitiser and distribute it to care homes and NHS facilities across Ashford. It’s more important than ever to do what we can to help.
“We’re also partnering with other local businesses by supplying our wine, beer and spirits as part of food delivery boxes. There’s a real sense of community spirit in Ashford at the moment – every business you speak to genuinely wants to help one another and collaborate.”
Mark concludes: “Despite a gloomy environment, we feel thankful that we’ve been able to find our way through the challenges by pivoting to maintain wine production and sales.”