We are surefire to say that the biggest challenge for this tough year has been the pandemic. The complete lockdown we faced in Italy at the beginning of the year halted restaurants, wine bars and social life and represented a huge loss for our winery, with the HoReCa market as our main sales channel. We did our best to encourage our online sales with good feedback and we’re still managing this channel successfully, however, only with a partial recovery of the whole company’s business.
In terms of international markets, our export rate is roughly 60%, so the uncertainties and severe restrictions were affecting the majority of our customer base worldwide. We had several weeks with 80 to 90% of our customers under lockdown regulations. And of course, restrictions were applied for a much longer period during 2021, versus 2020. In short, we have been facing really tough times.
Meanwhile, during those difficult months, we attended and organised many virtual tastings and seminars with customers and we had the time to review plans and move forward to become a better organisation in terms of productivity, which greatly helped with the restarting phase of the restaurant trade. We were ready for shipments as soon as the markets reopened, thanks to our policy of preparing a good stock of bottles ready-for-shipment in the second quarter of the year (while the lockdown forced us to a stop in sales and marketing). The consequence of these choices was a very quick reaction of our customer base who started sending us orders during May. Of course this gave us a good advantage in terms of timing and quick response to a lot of our customers, during a very delicate period.
Fortunately the emergency of Covid-19 is subsiding, the vaccination campaign is showing good results and the world is starting to feel smaller again, since we’re planning our next trips in Europe and thinking about the next exhibitions in Italy and abroad in 2022. We have great expectations for the next year and we hope to have the support of our partners to restart side by side with tons of energy. Unfortunately we are now forced to manage the supply chain cost increase, which could become a complication for the beginning of 2022. Once more we’ll do our best, again, trying to keep costs as low as we can, in order to offer good support to our best customers.
Brexit, of course, has meant another annoying obstacle in this already tough scenario and led to more paperwork, new logistic issues and some extra work for our bookkeeping department. The UK, generally speaking, is a priority market for Italian wines and food, and in our opinion it will take a longer time for a real solution-management of the new rules in Brexit times. Again, let’s keep our fingers crossed for a continuing decrease of the virus numbers, to let consumers enjoy less complicated days, nice meals and beautiful quality wines.