The Dugas company distributes about forty brands of rum, mainly to wine shops, restaurants and bars. François-Xavier Dugas explains the difficulties but also the resilience of this spirit.
Fabien Humbert: How did you experience the first months of the covid 19 crisis?
François-Xavier Dugas: It was brutal. On March 16, 2020, we all experienced an unprecedented situation. No more phone calls, cancelled orders… in short, a total halt in activity. Over the last 15 days of March we did -90% compared to 2019 at the same time!
April followed the same pattern, although wine shops and websites began to pick up, while the supermarket business (which accounts for only 18% of our total activity) continued to do well. However, we lost -70 percent in April due to a complete shutdown of the ‘on trade,’ which includes hotels, restaurants, wholesalers, and cash and carry (such as Metro, editor’s note).
FH: What about decontainment?
FXD: When we came out of containment on May 11, it was brutal, but positively so. We had so many requests that we had difficulty satisfying them all. Fortunately, we had stocked up, while most of my employees remained in business. We were organizing trainings for bartenders, remote tastings, calling our customers to check on them… So we were ready. This good period lasted until September.
FH : How do you analyze this rebound?
FXD : Consumers brought the consumption they used to have in bars and restaurants back home. Even better, they’ve spoiled themselves. We have never sold so many beautiful bottles, we have emptied our stocks on the old vintages. However, we noticed that they preferred to consume what they were familiar with, the tried-and-true products, rather than the novelties in our catalog. My colleagues and competitors have noticed the same phenomenon.
FH : And what about the second containment?
FXD : As with the first containment, the hotel/restaurant part of the business stopped almost overnight. However, I have noticed that the measures put in place by the government have allowed many of our clients to hold out financially. We have had very few defaults.
FH : And the end of the year?
FXD : At Christmas, the beautiful bottle as a gift is back in fashion. The wine merchants did very well from what I know. We are talking about double-digit growth. On our side, our turnover is growing by more than 5%. So we are doing well. The whole portfolio has sold well, there is no brand that hides in the forest.