Monday, July 14, 2008

Business drying up? Not at these wineries

After the New York Wine & Grape Foundation reported in its most recent e-newsletter that it was seeing a trend toward an overall drop in business because of the economy, I posed the question to several owners of wineries in my coverage area. Two owners who have been good friends to this blog, Lee Miller of Chaddsford Winery in chaddsford, Pa., and Carl Helrich of Allegro Vineyards in The Brogue, Pa., chimed in with what they've seen.

Miller: "We have actually seen INCREASES in traffic and sales this summer. Seems people coming to the Brandywine Valley are going the "staycation" route -- instead of going to Europe where the gas is $14 a gallon (and I know it firsthand as we just returned from 3 weeks in Spain) AND the Euro is worth $1.65 -- they are staying home, traveling less and doing more local things - which is really to our benefit. Our Memorial Day Weekend Brandywine River Blues Fest was the best ever in terms of both attendees and sales, and our recent Fourth of July Big Bang BBQ Weekend was also jam-packed and broke last year's sales record. Another thing I've heard people talking about around here is the "one tank trip" -- and again that's in our favor when people look around their own area instead of driving to further away areas. They are discovering the local wines and regional wine touring!"

Helrich: "Here's what I've seen. Even though our December sales were down over our projections, we've set records for sales on four of he past six months. This doesn't make any sense, because our winery (one of our main slaes locations) is in the middle of nowhere and requires driving a pretty good distance. I do think our sales per customer are up as well, which could explain us at least keeping even with years past, but not the growth in sales I have seen. I attribute it to the fact that in bad economies people stop going out for their entertainment. They don't stop their alcohol consumption -- it just moves closer to home. It would be interesting to see if DUIs are down these months . . . that might be an indicator of changing behaviors.That's all I've got. Cheers!"