July E&C customer update

Dear E&C customer,  

In an effort to improve lines of communication with you, our valued customer, we wanted to give you some insight into the challenges faced by the drinks industry at this time, and what actions E&C has taken to find solutions.

Owing to the overwhelmingly positive response to our previous communication in June, we thought, in the short term, it would be helpful to update you on a monthly basis on the steps we are taking and our progress in delivering ever-better customer service.

1. Stock shortages

Challenge faced by the drinks industry:

Global demand on reopening has outstripped anyone’s expectations, which has pushed some of our suppliers past their production capacity. This has been particularly noticeable in cocktail ingredients like syrups, which are noticeably more in demand with consumers. Some of our suppliers are affected by either shortages or delays from their packaging and equipment suppliers (e.g. bottles, corks, boxes, kegs). Additionally, vintage variation naturally happens every year, affecting yields and available quantities of wine. This year, we’ve been challenged by spring frosts in France and more forest fires in the US.

Actions E&C has taken:

We are working as closely as possible with our producers to keep communication lines open, and so that we can have as much advance notice as possible on potential delays.

Internally, we are also collaborating across the business to identify potential pressure points in our stock and identifying appropriate alternatives for our customers. For example, by working together in response to the upcoming shortages of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, our Demand Planning, Sales Operations and Buying teams identified several options at similar price points and offering comparable quality from South Africa, Chile, Spain, France and Australia. Additionally, we have stocked up on older vintages of super-premium NZ Sauvignon Blanc, at slower-moving price points. These teams are working closely to source alternatives from suppliers who still have stock, or to identify short-term alternatives from the stock we currently have in our warehouse.

Next steps:

 We will continue to proactively communicate with our customers whenever we receive advance notice of potential disruption to stock availability. With this advance notice, our Account Managers will work closely together with you to minimise disruption.


2. Global supply chain disruption

Challenge faced by the drinks industry:

In our June communication, we highlighted issues such as increased customs bureaucracy, equipment shortages, lack of haulage options and shortages of port and shipping workers that are all affecting lead times. Over the weekend, a looming Haribo shortage made the BBC headlines; the drinks industry is affected by all the same factors, except that Customs are prioritising edible products over wines and spirits. These issues are still in evidence, and over the last month, we’ve faced additional challenges:

  • Orders not being collected on time from source due to shortages of equipment and/or drivers
  • Increased transport costs as a result of shortages of containers and trailers
  • Orders being blocked at port in customs awaiting the necessary “Brexit” checks and clearances. We have seen some orders blocked for up to 4 weeks
  • UK-based suppliers aren’t able to provide their full product range because orders are blocked at source or in port, which is contributing to increased out of stocks
  • Haulage drivers falling sick and having to quarantine, which results in orders missing their delivery slots and pushes back “promised” delivery dates by up to 1 week
  • Stock has been damaged en route, so deliveries need to be rejected once they arrive at our warehouse, resulting in further shortfalls in stock levels
  • Stock being delivered on incorrect pallets, which takes our warehouse teams 6 times longer to land and uses floor space and has a negative knock on impact on the “put away”

Actions E&C has taken:

We have arranged air freight for certain deep sea shipments to circumvent lengthy shipping lead times.

We have also transferred to a new haulier, who is better positioned to service our requirements with the global distribution of their equipment and resource. We have already seen an improvement in lead times and deliveries through this new haulier, although there is a lag in orders that were placed with our previous haulier and are still held up in the network.

Next steps:

 We are continuing to work closely with our hauliers and suppliers, and have placed excess orders with extended lead times.

We are working on solutions to avoid gaps in supply


3. Trained staff and resource

Challenge faced by the drinks industry:

With so much disruption, neither our customers, suppliers nor our teams have settled back into a “business as usual” rhythm. This means that proportionally more deliveries and orders need our teams to help find solutions. For example, our Customer Service and Warehouse teams have been experiencing Christmas volumes for the last 6 weeks with no signs of slowing down. This is compounded by the industry-wide shortage of staff.

Actions E&C has taken:

We have recruited widely across areas of the business that were the biggest pressure points. Some of our new joiners have now been onboarded and are helping to even out the workload on our teams. This month, these teams have welcomed new members:

  • 2 new team members in Demand Planning
  • 8 new team members in Customer Services
  • 3 new team members in Credit Control
  • 18 new team members across the Warehouse and Transport teams
    • Including 6 new team members on the warehouse pick team, dedicated to facilitating our day-1-for-day-2 delivery service for most of the UK

We are also growing customer awareness of our automated order processes and web order platform, so that we can redirect resources away from orders to more complex customer queries

Next steps:

We are deploying “checkers” in the Warehouse to scan packed orders before routing and delivery. This is a quality control measure to mitigate for teething pains with new pickers and warehouse staff to ensure that your correct order reaches you.

We are continuing to recruit and grow our teams

We are upskilling current team members


Our Account Managers are committed to minimising the impact of this transition on you as much as possible.

We hope that this message has helped explain the challenges from our perspective  and to reassure you that we are working hard across the business to level out the disruption.

Wishing you a successful summer,


Sam Thackeray and Ants Rixon

Managing Directors