Armit: Wine buyers are ‘old fashioned’

Relying on wine buyers to secure distribution deals is “old fashioned”, according to the managing director of UK fine wine merchant Armit Wines.

The company, which was bought out by French co-operative group InVivo in 2017, reported a 15% rise in sales between April and June this year, according to a press release sent ahead of its full results, which will be published in October.

It comes after Armit accumulated total losses of £2.38 million by the end of the 2018 financial year, down from £2.95 million in 2017, according to results posted on Companies House. According to the director’s statement, its liabilities exceed its assets by around £1.63m.

In the past six months, however, sales have increased by 6%.

Philippe Leveau, InVivo’s managing director for Europe who was appointed to run Armit after the departure of former MD Kirsten Kilby in April, told db the company is now in better health thanks to a strong en primeur campaign and a string of strategic new hires.

In January 2019 it appointed Giusy Andreachio, who rejoined the company after 18 months at C&C, in the new role as Italian Ambassador in its London team, Catia Santolin from Field, Morris & Verdin, and Alex Hill as brand manager.

“I think this concept of buyers is old fashioned,” he told db. “Nowadays what you really need is people who share winery views and values, so those people who are not only really focused on the brand, but also they can interpret that in the sales team the key point of sale.” Leveau said the company’s staffing structure is built around three pillars; events, marketing; and operations.

The company has a number of IT investment plans in the pipeline, which include a refreshed look and feel of the website and a new online ordering system for trade customers later this year and the implementation of InVivo’s ERP system (SAP) in 2020.

Seasonal events are also a key growth opportunity for the business, Leveau said, adding that Armit’s Bordeaux en-primeur campaign delivered an uplift of 30% compared to last year.

Armit has a “strong core of Italian and other European producers and will continue to be a global wine merchant,” he said.

“We are proud to represent some of the world’s most iconic wineries and we will continue to scout for the next generation of wine stars, in the new and the old world. In particular, France is an exciting region where we see untapped potential for growth.

“Armit Wines has an impressive brand building track record and InVivo Wine is offering the tools and stability to continue this legacy.”

Armit has made a series of investments in its senior sales team in recent months, appointing Bancroft Wine’s Susan Harper as sales and marketing manager in October 2018. It also boosted its London restaurant and off-trade team with the appointment of James White in the new role of head of London sales in May 2018, along with Field, Morris & Verdin’s Nicolas Clers MS as key account and brand manager in October that year.

Armit, which celebrated its 30th anniversary last year, was bought by French company InVivo Group in July 2017 as part of the cooperative’s purchase of Armit’s owner, Baarsma Wine Group.

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