Judging by the reports I’m hearing, 2018 has been a good one for many. Nowhere is that more evident than in the corporate and company Christmas gifts that are appearing on the desks of many in the trade.
The wine industry has hospitality and generosity in its bones, which is evident at Christmas. People bring out fine bottles for Christmas parties, and send one another cakes, chocolates and bottles of wine.
But there’s something different about Christmas this year. I’m hearing from friends and colleagues about Christmas present upgrades, on a scale not seen since the year before the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) hit, when the global economy was overheating and it felt like the party would never stop.
People who, last year, sent e-cards are now sending actual cards; people who sent cards are now sending boxes of chocolates or Panettones; people who sent bottles of wine are sending better bottles or half cases. Even fine linens monogrammed with winery logos are appearing.
Indeed, the level of gifting suggests that not only has 2018 been a good year for many, but that the trade is confident that 2019 will be at least as good, if not better.
It’s enough to make me think that it’s time for a formal Christmas Gift Confidence Index, to reflect the relationship between Christmas gifts and economic conditions. The last time I saw a change in gifting this dramatic was after the GFC, when things went the other way: bottles of wine were downgraded to recipe books; cakes and chocolates became cards; cards became e-cards. It was a dramatic Christmas gift slump that heralded several years of gloom and doom.
I must admit, the lavishness of Christmas 2018 makes me slightly uneasy – especially when set alongside the recent CNBC survey of 43 economists, fund managers and strategists that has raised the likelihood of a recession over the next 12 months to 23%.
Naturally, I hope that the 77% of the CNBC respondents who don’t expect a downturn are correct.
But economies are cyclical and, sooner or later, bulls are always followed by bears. The good news is that the wine producers and distributors that made it through the last crisis did so because they changed and adapted. The wine world in 2018 is a fundamentally different place to the one of a decade ago— with significantly improved wine quality, and a greater focus on marketing, distribution and communication.
So whatever 2019 has to offer, I really do think that we’re all in much better shape to handle it. And that has to be a good note on which to end the year.